The Argentine star and the Brazilian met for a time in Barcelona; they nurtured a great relationship that persists and surprises in the world of high competition. Generosity, camaraderie, and passwords of the duo competing for the Copa América.
They weren't supposed to be friends. One Argentine, the other Brazilian. One at Barcelona, the other at PSG. The two fight for the same continental and world titles, for similar collective and individual accolades. That level of confrontation, that pursuit of the same goals, was supposed to separate them. They were destined to star in one of the great rivalries of our time. Despite that, Messi and Neymar, who will meet again today in a decisive match, built one of the strongest friendships in world football, a territory in which superstars do not usually let their emotions rule.
At some point, Messi understood that his genius condemned him to loneliness. Who can compare to him on a court? The only candidate we know had not played for years. He understood that accompanied; the road is more enjoyable. And chose. Someone else would have opted for a role player, with fewer lights, with no chance of overshadowing him. The substitute goalkeeper, the leading marker, a hard-working central defender (Messi was friends with all of them too: Pinto, Dani Alves, Mascherano). Leo and Neymar decided to get together as pairs, almost as a necessity, naturally. The different, together. And they were joined by an explosive, tireless and fighter center forward like Luis Suárez.
First, there was a soccer communion. That which Zlatan Ibrahimovic did not achieve at any time, Neymar did immediately. He and Messi spoke the same language on the court. One of the good games, the magic, the surprising combined with the efficiency. The search for permanent victory. In between, they became friends.
But if friendship is a mental presupposition, which has to do with feelings, which is born from identification and something ineffable, in this case, it could be affirmed that the beginning was an intellectual operation; he had will and reason. Neymar knew that without a good relationship with Messi, his life in Barcelona would be very complicated. Messi understood that that Brazilian devil from the left-wing could only empower the team, help it win. He knew that he would take advantage of every assist he gave him, and that he would also make him score many goals and that they would shoot a million walls. Later, when the ball started rolling, the fascination of wonder. The everyday possibility of achieving the impossible. They understood that they had more fun ( the boys just want to have fun). That fun, later, they transferred him off the field.
Neymar arrived with many scrolls and paid for them in several tens of millions of dollars with the whole future ahead. The pressure was enormous. It had to be at the level of the best team in the world. It was not easy, a great challenge that turned into a great weight. The adaptation cost him. In one of those early days, he began to cry in the corner of the locker room. He had come to be a figure, and things did not work out for him; he had to justify the fortune they had paid for him. Also, in that perfect team, it was more noticeable if someone did not play well. I felt that it was the only out-of-tune instrument in a perfect orchestra.
In one of the first games of the 2013 season, the Brazilian star had played a bad first half (in case that was possible). At halftime, frustration overwhelmed him, and tears appeared without warning. He tried to disguise no one will notice. But, the worst happened; the only one realized that he did not want her to do it. Messi approached him. There was a hesitation, a moment of uncertainty. Then, she sat down next to him and hugged him. "He saw that he was half crying because he hadn't played the first half. Messi realized I was depressed and started talking to me: 'It's up to you. Play your football and don't be scared'" Neymar said much later when they asked him how the friendship between them had started. "Even if you don't want to, playing with so many stars makes you reluctant. It gives you a bit of shame," said the current PSG player. When he came to talk to me, I stopped showing my football and trusting him. It was when I relaxed; I found happiness. Thanks to Leo". Sometimes, remembering that moment, Neymar was moved to tears in front of the journalist. "The best in the world provided me his affection," he said.
That was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Messi could have ignored Neymar or sent an emissary. Instead, however, the best in the world approached and gave him confidence, urged him to cheer up, risk his game, and take center stage. Leo risked being overshadowed in that sacrifice (which functioned as a counterpart to the utility that cracks size could provide the team). Something likely if, in addition, the expansive, cheerful, and somewhat exhibitionist personality of the Brazilian is taken into account. But Neymar was the one who made the biggest sacrifice; He knew that at Barcelona he would win a lot, that his game would shine but also that he would never be number one, that always, whatever he did, he would be in the shadow, covered by the monster, by the serial best player in the world.