Lionel Messi came to the defence of one of his national teammates when his compatriots were teasing him on the training ground, it has been revealed.
Brighton & Hove Albion midfielder Alexis Mac Allister was called up to the Argentine national team squad for the first time in 2019, and trained alongside the nation's all-time leading goalscorer and captain Lionel Messi.
"I was red, completely red," he told The Athletic.
"I didn't want even to say hello. I was really nervous even to meet one of the best players in the world, but it was fantastic, of course."
Mac Allister and his father, Carlos Mac Allister, who was also a professional footballer back in the day, have both had the privilege of having played with arguably Argentina's two greatest-ever players, as his dad played with Diego Maradona.
"It's something I'm not going to forget. It was magic when my dad played with Maradona and I could train with Lionel Messi. We are very proud of it," the Seagulls star added.
Due to his Irish ancestry, Mac Allister has ginger hair, and he has now revealed how, when his Argentina teammates started calling him "Colo" – said to mean "ginger" in Argentina – Messi quickly leapt to the attacking midfielder's defence.
Aware that Mac Allister is not fond of the playground insult over his hair colour, the Paris Saint-Germain forward told his colleagues to stop calling him that.
"I remember everyone called me 'Colo', which is ginger in Argentina. I don't like it much and he told the teammates that. He said, 'He doesn't like to be called Colo, so don't call him that!'" Mac Allister explained.
Mac Allister has four goals and two assists in the Premier League this season as he looks to help Brighton consolidate a top-half position in the league.
Here is how Messi and his colleagues celebrated winning the 2021 Copa America trophy: