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Lionel Messi

'Messi told everyone to stop calling me ginger!' - Mac Allister reveals PSG superstar defended him in Argentina training

22:21 GMT+3 27/01/2022
Alexis Mac Allister
The Brighton midfielder has also opened up on his first meeting with the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner

Alexis Mac Allister has revealed that Lionel Messi jumped to his defence in an Argentina training session, with the Paris Saint-Germain superstar warning the rest of their team-mates to stop calling him "ginger".

Mac Allister has been included in Argentina's latest squad for their final World Cup qualifying fixtures against Chile and Colombia, having impressed for Brighton in the first half of the 2021-22 campaign.

The 23-year-old has two senior caps to his name so far and also starred for his country's U23s at the Tokyo Olympics last summer, but is still waiting to play his first game alongside Messi.

What's been said?

The seven-time Ballon d'Or winner won't be with Argentina during the latest international break after being given extra time off to recover from Covid-19, but Mac Allister has at least already had the opportunity to train with his idol.

The Seagulls midfielder bonded with Messi in a somewhat unexpected fashion while on international duty last year, avoiding becoming the butt of a personal joke thanks to the 34-year-old's intervention.

“I trained with him when I was in the Argentinian squad twice, but I didn’t play with him,” Mac Allister has told The Athletic. “It was fantastic, the same as in the matches he trains. It’s something you cannot believe.

“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 said, ‘He doesn’t like to be called Colo, so don’t call him that!’.”

The Brighton star also spoke about meeting Messi for the first time: “I was red, completely red. 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.

“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.”

Mac Allister on choosing Brighton & adapting to the Premier League

Mac Allister has gradually established himself as one of Brighton's most consistent performers since moving to the Amex Stadium from Argentinos Juniors in 2019.

The talented young playmaker had other options before choosing the Seagulls, but says the advice he received from countryman and former Manchester United and Manchester City star Carlos Tevez helped convince him to head to England.

“Tevez said the Premier League is the best in the world and [Mauro] Zarate said the Italian league, Serie A, is the best,” said Mac Allister. “Carlos was in love with the English people, with the league, with everything here. He showed it here and he enjoyed it.

"I supported Carlos, so I think we won the argument! The Premier League is fantastic. It’s nice when you play. I want to play and I need to play. It’s fantastic to be here and to be at this club is special.”

The Argentina international has helped Brighton rise to ninth in the Premier League table after 22 games this season, but he says it has taken him time to get used to the physical demands of the competition.

“Physically, that’s the most important thing I had to improve, gym and training,” Mac Allister continued. “That’s why the pandemic was hard, because I couldn’t train with my team-mates, to be every day at the training ground.

“I ‘lost’ maybe two or three months. That wasn’t good for me to settle in. When I go to the gym now, the strength and conditioning trainer says I’m much stronger than when I arrived.”

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