BARRIO – Lionel Messi was fired up more than usual on Friday night when Argentina beat Netherlands to earn a spot in the final four of the FIFA World Cup.
Messi assisted the opening goal with an amazing pass to Molina, before double Argentina’s lead from the penalty spot. Messi then jogged into the direction of Louis van Gaal, before bringing his hands to his ears and standing there for a few seconds.
It was a celebration inspired by one of Messi’s boyhood heroes who often did the same celebration in Juan Roman Riquelme. Riquelme was ousted from Barcelona by Van Gaal himself.
During his time in the helm at the Camp Nou, Van Gaal failed to get the best out of Riquelme and didn’t seem to rate the South American playmaker as highly as everyone else.
“You’re the best player when you have the ball, but when you don´t we play with one less,” the manager is rumoured to have told Riquelme.
Van Gaal would deliberately play Riquelme out of position to try and send a message to those above him to remind them that they had signed the wrong player and should consult the boss in future.
Messi’s adoration of Riquelme has long been well documented, with former Barcelona coach Josep Minguella once recalling: “Sometimes Leo would come around for a barbecue and I remember one time when Riquelme, Rochemback, Motta and some other players came, and I can still see Messi sitting at the bottom of the table looking at Riquelme as if he were Jesus Christ.
“For him Riquelme was his great idol, he was left-footed and played in the number 10 position in Barcelona’s first team. However, Leo would only look at him because he was very shy, you had to force words out of him.”
Messi, even at the age of 35, remains one of the world’s best, and was hardly shy when he stood holding his hands to ears directly in front of the Dutch bench.