'I want to be soccer's LeBron' - Barca winger De La Fuente sees Lakers star as biggest influence

Konrad De La Fuente Barcelona 2019
The American says that he looks up to the basketball icon moreso than his teammate Lionel Messi

Barcelona and U.S. U-20 men's national team winger Konrad de la Fuente hailed LeBron James as his biggest influence despite the fact that he has shared a locker room with Lionel Messi.

The American teenager was born in Miami and has been with Barcelona since 2014,  when he joined the club's academy system.

De La Fuente has risen through the ranks in the years since, primarily featuring for the club's U-19s while also earning appearances for Barcelona B in Spain's third tier.

While the 18-year-old has stated that Ronaldinho was his childhood idol, De La Fuente has says that James is his biggest inspiration despite the fact that the Los Angeles Lakers star shines in a different sport.

"My favorite player is LeBron," he told ESPN. "He's my idol.

"I'm just a LeBron fan, probably the biggest fan in the world. I play basketball as a hobby, and I'm not that good at it, but it's incredible how much I like him.

"I just like the way he plays, his work ethic, how he is off the field, his ambition to improve even though he is the best. It's incredible and I really admire it.

"Even though I am not a basketball player, but I want to be like that in the soccer world. In that sense, [he's a bigger influence than Messi for me]."

Throughout his time with Barcelona, De La Fuente has earned several chances to train with the first team, where he has been able to play alongside Messi.

Like any Barcelona up-and-comer, the American looks up to the Argentinian star and recalls how nervous he was the first time he got to meet Messi in person.

"He [Messi] was having an interview at La Masia and I was there," De La Fuente said. "When the interview was over I went to go take a picture of him.

"And as I'm walking up to him -- I'm with two of my other friends -- I'm like 'Oh, it's Messi, it's great.' I'm like almost shaking. And I asked him if I could take a picture and he goes: 'Yeah,' and I have my phone in my hand, and I'm looking down at my hand is trembling.

"It was crazy. I've never felt like that in my life."

"It's not that I'm used to [seeing Messi now] but I still get a little starstruck but not like that," he added.

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"The first time I trained with the first team, I got into the locker room and I turned to go into it and run into someone. And I looked and I see it's Messi.

"I said: 'Hi,' and shook his hand and everything. And then as I walked past him I said: 'Oh my God I just [ran into] Messi.' But there was just that moment and that's it. And then it was just normal."

De La Fuente has featured for the U.S. up to the U-20 level, where he was the youngest member of Tab Ramos' squad for the 2019 U-20 World Cup in Poland.

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