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22 May, 2021 13:23

‘I would have liked that shirt’: Lionel Messi names not asking Brazil legends Ronaldo & Roberto Carlos for swap as greatest regret

‘I would have liked that shirt’: Lionel Messi names not asking Brazil legends Ronaldo & Roberto Carlos for swap as greatest regret

Barcelona and Argentina legend Lionel Messi has admitted that he wished he had asked Brazil heroes Ronaldo and Roberto Carlos for their shirts, speaking in a candid interview about his football career, family life and spare time.

Barca's record scorer played against the original Ronaldo and fellow icon Roberto Carlos on several occasions early in his career, including in El Clasico between his side and Real Madrid, when the pair played for the Spanish giants' arch-rivals.

Now known for being the man every player wants to swap shirts with at the end of games he is involved in, Messi still wishes he had asked the 2002 World Cup winners to swap with him while he was an emerging sensation and they were established geniuses.

"Not having asked for shirts before from players I played when I was a kid," he conceded, when asked by Diario Ole what he regrets. "Like the Brazilian Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos – players I faced and today I say, 'I would have liked to have that shirt.'"

Well over a decade on, magician Messi has gone from being a precocious teenager to a father-of-three and arguably the greatest player of modern times.

"I am lucky enough to be with them practically all day, to be able to take them to school, go pick them up, take them to soccer, to other activities and I love it," said the 33-year-old, discussing life with sons Thiago, Ciro and Mateo while joking that "sometimes you want to kill them".

"What I enjoy the most is waking up, having breakfast with them. I was lucky to have a group of spectacular [fellow school] parents.

"We started with Thiago, who was the first to go to school, make friends – and he has a very good group, parents too. It's normal now [for them to] see us, get together. And I am one more parent."

The less normal moments of being one of the most famous athletes in the world occasionally frustrate Messi.

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"More than anything... you want to go unnoticed and go where there are many people or in a shopping center, where it is more complicated," he said.

"There are moments when you want to be without that pressure. And you are [thought of as] crazy because you do not want to cross paths with anyone.

"Thiago doesn't like it: he doesn't like to be recognized. His character is very shy and he has a hard time."

Away from prying eyes, Messi confessed to relishing rounds of paddle tennis – a more compact, altered version of the traditional game – with right-hand man Pepe Costa and said a sponsorship deal had influenced the evolution of his styled facial hair.

"The beard issue was that I had been shaving for a long time. I was with Gillette and they told me to shave as much as possible.

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"Then I said, 'I don't shave anymore.' Then at the 2016 Copa America, there were many with beards and I... left it. The thought grabbed me that I could either take it out or grow it long."

Barcelona fans hoping Messi will extend his contract this summer will find encouragement in his glowing assessment of the effect of winning the key Spanish domestic cup earlier this year.

"The truth is that the Copa del Rey was special," said Messi. "The club comes from a couple of years where we had not been having a good time due to [bad] results and [a lack of] titles.

"Because it is a very young dressing room, with many [members] and new people, this Copa del Rey for the dressing room was a turning point – and very important."

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