Argentina star Alexis Mac Allister was so starstruck by Lionel Messi during their first meeting that he was left “shaking”.
The pair were key to the South American side winning their third World Cup in Qatar this month. Messi shone at the tournament having notched six goals and claimed the golden ball. In the meantime, Mac Allister also continued the excellent form that he has displayed with his club Brighton. The 24-year-old appeared in every game but one - that being the defeat in Argentina’s opening group game against Saudi Arabia.
Despite Mac Allister and Messi now being team-mates on the international stage, the former has opened up on how nervous he got when meeting the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner for the first time a few years back.
Speaking with Bleacher Report, he said: “I was so nervous, my hands were shaking. I'm a really shy guy, so yeah, I was really nervous.
“But then you realise how humble he is. In that moment, I was playing at Boca Juniors, so we had arrived from Argentina to [play] I think it was Spain for a friendly.
“And we arrived, and he was having dinner. I went to the table and said hello with my hands shaking. I was sweating.
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“But it was an amazing moment. He's my idol. He's the best football player in the world."
It is fair to say that the pair’s relationship has progressed since their initial meeting, so much so that Messi was forced to intervene when Mac Allister was given a particularly unsavoury nickname by the rest of the Argentina squad. He added: “I remember everyone called me ‘Colo’, which is ginger in Argentina.
“I don’t like it much and he told the team-mates that. He [Messi] said, ‘He doesn’t like to be called Colo, so don’t call him that!’.”
Mac Allister, now a 14-time Argentina international, appears certain to add to his caps in the future under Lionel Scaloni although whether that occurs with him still being a Brighton player remains to be seen. His performances at the World Cup has seen interest generate around him ahead of the January transfer window.
North London side Tottenham have been credited as admirers of Mac Allister with it being reported that Fabio Paratici has already approved a winter swoop ahead of time. The midfielder has not yet returned to the AMEX Stadium following the World Cup having been granted an extended break.
The Seagulls did not appear to miss him all too much having secured an impressive 3-1 victory away to Southampton. They are next in action on New Years’ Eve with a home clash against current league leaders Arsenal.