Although the casual observer might interpret the phrase Ankara Messi as a reference to a Turkish player who shares some of the attributes of the Argentine, the phrase actually comes from the Spanish word “encarar” which means “still”.
And that in turn refers back to the commentary on a game between Barcelona and Getafe in a Copa del Rey semi-final in the 2006 – 2007 season, when Messi picked up the ball in his own half, seemingly posing no threat to the Getafe goal. However, he then embarked on a slaloming run that took him past a string of opponents, causing commentator Joaquim Maria Puyal to get increasingly excited, repeatedly exclaiming “Ankara Messi”.
Messi was just 19 years old at the top, but he capped off his individual move by taking the ball round the goalkeeper and sliding the ball into the net with his right foot. Puyal lot his composure completely as he celebrated the goal.
Barcelona would win that match 5 – 2, with Messi scoring a brace, whilst Xavi (now the Barcelona manager), Samuel Eto’o and Eiður Smári Guðjohnsen also getting on the scoresheet.
Improbably, Barcelona did not get to the final, because Getafe won the reverse fixture 4 – 0, and they lost to Sevilla in the final.
However, Messi won plenty of other silverware during his time with Barcelona, the club he had joined at the age of 13, when first team director Charly Rexach famously signed him using a contract he had drafted on a napkin, and after agreeing to pay for the growth deficiency operation the young Argentine needed.
During his time with the Catalans, Messi would win 34 major trophies, including 10 league titles, seven Spanish Cups, four Champions Leagues and three Club World Cups.
He is also the all-time La Liga top scorer (goals) and he has the most hat-tricks in the league as well.
The man known as the “atomic flea” because of his small stature, has won the Ballon d’Or seven times, another record.
Famously he was forced to leave Barcelona almost against his will, when the club’s financial difficulties forced them to withdraw the offer of a new contract which they had already made to him.
Instead, he joined PSG but he and his family have never really settled in Paris, and there is uncertainty about his future. His current two year contract is up in the summer, and, although he has been offered a new deal, he has yet to sign it.
There have been suggestions that he could go to Saudi Arabia, the MLS and even a return to Barcelona has been touted as a possibility, but his salary demands make that problematic.
Already regarded as one of the greatest players of all time, he cemented his legacy last year when he captained Argentina to World Cup success in Qatar.
So good were his performances that he won the Golden Ball, awarded to the Player of the Tournament.
Since then he continues to set records, and recently passed the 800 goal mark in professional football, one of the few players to have ever surpassed that benchmark.