So this will be the apex of it all. All those kickabouts on the dusty backstreets of Rosario, all those shimmies and feints that sent his peers in the Newell’s Old Boys youth academy back home to their parents snivelling, all those chips, flicks, drag-backs and goals — oh yes, all those goals — that propelled him to superstardom and beyond for FC Barcelona; this, above all else, will be the moment it had all led to. Lionel Messi’s passion for football had been founded on legends. As a child he had been brought up on his favourite story of Ricky and Ossie; two heroic figures born in Argentina but made in London, England. A story so rich in success, he had naturally mistaken it for myth. His parents told him the tale every night before bed to get him to sleep: of how two 1978 World Cup winners swapped the sun-scorched plains of their homeland in South America in search of a game filled with glory. A game played in a shirt so resplendent, so pure, so Lilywhite, it had to be seen to be believed. “Did Ossie’s dream really come true, Papa?” a young Leo would ask his father, wide-eyed. “And do you think I will ever get to play at Wembley, too?” On the arid football pitches of Argentina in the Nineties, to separate the battered, leather ball from the command of a teenage Lionel Andrés Messi Cuccittini was to perform an exorcism. As hapless, flailing legs swiped away at his ankles, Leo would beat his man, then another, then another. All the while he imagined himself as his heroes; John Motson’s commentary echoing within his head: “Villa... And still Ricky Villa! What a fantastic run — scored! Amazing goal!” His talent was spotted immediately; scouts flocking from the far corners of the globe to catch a sight of Newell’s Old Boys’ boy wonder. The cultured left foot, the deftness of touch, the closeness of control: the interested parties saw genius and, without any need for exaggeration, gushed how they had found the rightful heir to Diego Maradona. This didn’t exactly sit right with Leo, though. For although belief in his own ability was unwavering, it was actually Mauricio Taricco — another phenomenon hailing from Argentina — who the youngster had been attempting to replicate on the pitch by 2001, and not a disgraced Diego Maradona. Then came Leo’s 13th birthday, and a decision regarding his future in football had to be made. Offers were on the table and he had delayed on the decision for far too long; hankering for a call from Glenn Hoddle and Daniel Levy. Instead, the only feasible offer had been received from FC Barcelona in Spain; a place where Leo had family, and a club willing to cover the medical bills for his dwarfism. Living in Catalonia will have to do, Leo thought. It’s by no means Hadley Wood, but it’ll have to do. And besides, he concluded, if things didn’t work out at Barcelona he could always end up at Tottenham. Heck, it’s what Gary Lineker did. However, days at Barca turned to weeks, weeks into months, and months into years. A move to Tottenham never materialised. He was the architect of his downfall, he mused. All those goals, La Liga titles, Champions Leagues, Copa del Reys, and Ballon d'Ors ensuring — although he never once dreamt it possible —he had gotten too big, even for his beloved Tottenham Hotspur. He was now resigned to the fact that he’d never get to share a pitch with his heroes before the curtains closed on his illustrious career. And then it happened. On 30 August 2018 in Monaco, balls were withdrawn from pots, paper unfolded and names read out. Leo crumpled to his knees with glee as it was confirmed that Barcelona would play Tottenham... at Wembley. He descended to his wine cellar to retrieve a vintage worthy of a toast, all the while Chas & Dave’s Greatest Hits boomed throughout his home. Finally he had been given the chance to do it, Leo thought, and on the biggest stage of his career. He was now able prove himself worthy of the “Goat” namesake against Harry Kane, Hugo Lloris and Kieran Trippier. He stopped to savour the moment, smiling as he did. He always had a dream of one day playing at Wembley, and now his dream was coming true.