Lionel Messi: Frank Rijkaard was most important coach of my career
Lionel Messi has singled out the most important coach of his career so far, and perhaps surprisingly it's Frank Rijkaard rather than Pep Guardiola.
Messi is currently on Argentina duty ahead of their upcoming World Cup qualifier against Bolivia on Tuesday, and was asked by Egyptian station MBC which coach had the most influence on him and his career.
The Barcelona forward, who got his professional start under Rijkaard, highlighted the Dutchman’s impact on his career as the most significant.
" All the coaches I had at first left me things, but I think the most important thing in my career was Rijkaard," Messi told MBC."
"If he had not decided to get me in the first team to train and play perhaps I had never reached the first team."
Former Barcelona manager Frank Rijkaard (L) consoles Lionel Messi as he leaves the fieldReuters
'He trusted me'
"I always said [Riikaard] was, for me, a very important person because he trusted me," Messi added.
"He made me play in the first team."
Messi, who has now racked up an astonishing five Ballon d’Or awards, was given his Barcelona debut at the age of just 17 by Rijkaard and in so doing became the third-youngest starter in the club’s history.
Messi with GuardiolaAFP
For all that Messi achieved under Guardiola and the player he grew into under the Spaniard’s tutelage, it is very understandable that he highlights Rijkaard’s impact as the most significant given that he gave him his debut and place in the first team. At 17-years-old, it was a bold step from the Dutchman to introduce Messi, for all his abundant talent, and the faith placed in him was richly rewarded. Still, it's strange to see him pick anyone other than the man who made him a false nine and the most devastating forward modern football has seen.