'Nobody at Barcelona expected Messi to be the best ever' - Hidalgo reveals early impressions of 'very shy' Argentine superstar

Lionel Messi Barcelona 2019-20
Getty Images
The attacker caught his former team-mate by surprise by going on to become a multiple Champions League and Ballon d'Or winner

Former Barcelona winger Cristian Hidalgo says no one at the club expected Lionel Messi to go on to become one of the best players in history when he first broke through.

The Argentine sensation has been with the Catalan side since the age of 13 and emerged as one of the game's most promising talents when he made his debut just three years later.

Hidalgo was at Barca at the same time as the star attacker and says no one at the club could have predicted he would have gone on to become a six-time Ballon d'Or winner.

"Leo was an incredible talent. Everyone in the club knew that he would one day be a very good player," he told Goal and Spox

"But the best ever? No. Nobody could have foreseen that. Leo's accomplishments are unique.

"He was very shy, very introverted. He actually only spoke when it was necessary.

"As he played more and started scoring goals, he thawed a little and joked around more."

Hidalgo made just one first-team appearance for Barcelona before he left to join Deportivo La Coruna in 2006.

While Messi went on to enjoy domestic and continental success with the Blaugrana, Hidalgo had spells in Cyprus, Israel, Bulgaria, India, Romania and Andorra, where he currently plays.

Ronaldinho Barcelona 2005-06

But the Spaniard has fond memories of his time at Camp Nou, highlighting former Brazil hero Ronaldinho's antics on and off the field as a particular highlight.  

"Without him and his positive aura, Barca would not have been nearly as successful at the time," he said of Ronaldinho.

"He was joy personified, he infected every team-mate with his laugh. That being said, I've never seen a better dribbler than him.

"He nibbled us all in training. I will never forget when I arrived very early in the conference room of our hotel before a league game with the other nominated youth players and the professionals went to their seats one after the other.

"In the end there was only one chair left behind - Ronaldinho's. And when he strolled into the room just barely on time, he suddenly pointed his finger at me and accused me of sitting in his place.

Article continues below

"So I got up intimidated and went back. Ultimately, it was just a joke from Ronaldinho and everyone started to laugh. He was always kidding us, especially me.

"For me [being at Barcelona] felt like being in the land of milk and honey. Young players were given certain values like humility and respect, but we didn't have to worry about anything. 

"The team included so many great personalities such as Carles Puyol, Fernando Navarro or Xavi and Andres Iniesta, who all knew what it was like to come from La Masia to the professional squad and to earn a living just among many world stars."