Lionel Messi almost joined Espanyol in 2005, says Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino
Last Updated: 02/10/18 8:31pm
Mauricio Pochettino says Barcelona great Lionel Messi almost joined him at Espanyol in 2005.
Pochettino is preparing his Spurs side to face Messi and Barcelona in an intriguing Champions League showdown at Wembley on Wednesday.
But the manager used to play for, and then managed, Barca's local rivals Espanyol - and he says Messi came very close to joining him in the summer of 2005.
Pochettino said: "I started to hear about him when I was a player at Espanyol.
"A small guy, playing in the academy in Barcelona.
"Then I heard he was so close to signing for Espanyol - very close - in the season Barcelona played against Juventus in the Joan Gamper (an annual pre-season tournament).
"I remember that summer.
"But, because he was so fantastic in the Joan Gamper, they changed their minds. They kept Messi at Barcelona.
"So, if you look back in history, maybe if he did not play in the Joan Gamper in that summer, maybe today he could have been the biggest star in Espanyol.
"Maybe I would still be at Espanyol managing him!"
Pochettino says that the only way to deal with playing against all-time greats like Messi is to try and enjoy the experience somehow.
"I am not going to try to find a solution against Messi," he said. "I think that's impossible.
"It's only to enjoy it. More than worrying you, it needs to excite you.
"I played against (Diego) Maradona and Ronaldo and, for your ego, it's a thing that you are going to tell your kids and grandkids.
"So enjoy it, stay close and try to play in the opposite half, push Leo to play far from your goal.
"Because if not, it's terrible!"