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'Messi's clothes were too big but he still left a trail of bodies behind' – Banega recalls facing wonderkid

7:38 PM GMT+4 30/03/2019
Lionel Messi Argentina Venezuela Friendly 22032019
The La Liga duo played together in the Newell's Old Boys academy, where the five-time Ballon d'Or winner impressed many team-mates

Lionel Messi possessed his trademark spark as a youngster and "left a trail of bodies behind him" even though his clothes did not fit, recalls the 31-year-old's Argentina team-mate Ever Banega.

Banega was a contemporary of the five-time Ballon d'Or winner in the Newell's Old Boys academy and claims he often played against Messi despite being a year younger. 

The Barcelona star recently returned to action for Argentina in their 3-1 loss to Venezuela last week, although he picked up a groin injury during that game and has received criticism for his part in the disappointing result.

But Messi is enjoying another prolific campaign with his club, having scored 29 goals in 27 La Liga appearances this term - 11 more than any other player - and Banega remembers seeing similar dominance at an early age. 

“I was a year younger but I played against Leo's category because my old man was the coach," the 30-year-old explained to Club 947 FM Radio in Argentina. "I faced him many times.

"His clothes were too big for him but he still left a trail of bodies behind him. You could already see that spark.

"He was better than the others. Before, now and in the future, he will always be better than me.”

Banega has not been involved with the Argentina squad since the disappointing World Cup campaign last summer when the South American side were knocked out by eventual champions France in the last 16, and he admits a return to national team is unlikely.

"I don't see myself playing in the Copa America, or the World Cup again. 

"But I do not close the doors to selection. If they want to call me up, they're welcome."

And the Sevilla midfielder is accepting of the recent criticism from fans, which even came from Argentina legend Diego Maradona.

"Today with social media it is very easy to criticise. But the coach and the players have to work. 

"What fans say is to be taken as something normal. They are within their rights to make memes and give their opinions, I respect that."