Lionel Messi has praised Barcelona’s youth academy, La Masia, as reason for his successful career.
At the age of 11, Messi was diagnosed with a growth hormone deficiency, but Barcelona agreed to pay Messi’s medical bills after they had been made aware of his talent.
Messi and his father moved to Barcelona, where Messi enrolled in the club’s youth academy and later made his first-team debut as a 17-year-old under Frank Rijkaard.
“Barcelona have given me everything. I was educated in the values of La Masía and I am what I am thanks to the values of the youth set-up,” Messi told BarcaTV.
“I was over the moon when Barça called me.
“I couldn’t play for six months because I didn’t have clearance and when I was able to play, I got injured. It was a difficult time.”
The four-time FIFA Ballon d’Or winner believes Barcelona’s youth set-up is an example for every club, and is delighted when new players train with the first team.
“Seeing so many players from the youth set-up in the first team is an example to everyone,” he continued.
“We’re happy for the players who come up and train with us. I want them to enjoy themselves; that’s what’s most important in this sport.
“If they work hard, make sacrifices and put in a lot of effort, I think they can realise any dream they set themselves.”
The 26-year-old also mentioned his relationship with Cesc Fàbregas and Gerard Piqué, who both came up through the youth ranks with Messi.
“I played with Piqué and Cesc in the youth teams. Cesc was very important in the dressing room and Piqué was a real prankster,” he added.
“Now he’s calmer and he has always treated me very well.”
Finally, Messi reflected on leaving his family and his desire to play for Barcelona: “My brothers went back to Argentina but I always wanted to stay in Barcelona to fulfil my dream of playing for the first team.”
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