Had he joined the Rangers, his life probably would have turned very different.
Over the years, we have come across several stories about football players connected to video games in some way. However, this is one tale that has left us bonkers. After all, the player in question is a legendary player, and therefore, we cannot think of his life on a different track or version compared to what we have witnessed since 2006.
The heart of the matter is that Scottish manager Alexander McLeish learned about this legendary player's abilities from a video game while managing Scottish club Hibernian. After joining the Rangers, he tried to sign the player, but by then, he was too late.
Who is the player? Any guesses without surfing the internet?
Let us unfold the tale beyond belief.
The player in question is Lionel Andrés Messi Cuccittini, the greatest of all time. We go back to the year 2001, when McLeish was the gaffer at Hibernian. Back then, in terms of video games for football, FIFA and PES were on the rise. However, few were aware that Championship Manager was silently creating a space for itself in the hearts of football enthusiasts who were more into managing teams than controlling players on the pitch.
In 2000, Lionel Messi was merely a 13-year-old kid, but still, the scouting network on Football Manager was an efficient effort to track him for players. McLeish's son Jon used to play the game, and he was so impressed by the capabilities of a young Lionel Messi that he continuously bugged his father to sign the Atomic Flea. However, McLeish did not heed his son's demand because, two decades ago, a young Messi was a nobody.
Three years later, when McLeish joined Rangers, he tried to sign Lionel Messi, but it was too late by then. Messi was racking up goals for the Barcelona C team and was on his way to Barcelona B. Isn't it hard to imagine Lionel Messi in the Rangers' jersey? Absolutely bonkers!
McLeish recalled the incident, saying, "He was constantly giving me names in South America. They come out the sky and say 'Lionel Messi is going to be the best player in the world'. And I said, 'OK, son.' Pat on the head. And let him get on with it. He was 13 or 14 at the time. You dismiss it, but Rangers were downsizing, and we were looking for some quality in midfield."
While Lionel Messi became the greatest player of all time, McLeish established himself as one of the most successful managers in the history of Scottish football. The gaffer led Hibernian to the Scottish First Division, whereas with Rangers, he won three Scottish Premier Leagues, two Scottish Cups, and three Scottish League Cups. In 2005, he was inducted into the Scottish Hall of Fame.
Apart from Rangers' missed opportunity, Arsenal in 2003, under the regime of Arsene Wenger, tried its best to sign Lionel Messi but failed. In 2019, Wenger revealed, "We were in discussions with [Messi] when we bought Fabregas because Messi played [with him]. Pique and Fabregas came to England [with Manchester United and Arsenal, respectively], and Messi stayed in Spain. We were interested in him, but he was untouchable at the time," as quoted by All Football.