Messi needed only seven words to stop Paulinho taking a crucial free kick 3 years ago

Messi needed only seven words to stop Paulinho taking a crucial free kick

The GOAT knew exactly what he was doing.

They're now teammates, but last summer Paulinho and Lionel Messi went head to head as Brazil took on Argentina in a friendly. You have to use 'friendly' in the very loosest sense when talking about these historic rivals, however, and the game was a crucial litmus test before the final few rounds of the South American qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup.

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With the game finely balanced, Brazil won a free-kick in a dangerous position and Paulinho, on the back of a tremendous season in the Chinese Super League with Guangzhou Evergrande, stepped up to take it. No, stop laughing. Seriously. Stop laughing.

If I was Messi, I would have just riffed on the fact that, you know, it was in the Chinese Super League, and not the Premiership, that Paulinho had finally proved himself. I also would have probably just let him take it. It's Paulinho.

Clearly though Messi wasn't interested in the low-hanging fruit or hurting a potential new team-mate's feelings (the rumours were just beginning to circulate at the time), so instead he slowly crept up behind his rival to put him off with a more subtle comment, in a way only Messi could.

"Are you going to Barcelona or not?"

In an interview with El Periodico, Paulinho claims that this is what Messi said to him just he was stepping up to take the free-kick. Perfect timing to ask, no?

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"I was preparing to take a free-kick with Willian and another player I do not remember. Suddenly, I see Messi from behind, who is approaching me little by little and says: "Are you going to Barcelona or not?'" He told me right before I was about to take the free-kick", he said.

"What did I tell him? 'If you want to take me, you can take me. I am going'. I was so nervous that I said to Willian, 'You're taking the free-kick!'"

What Messi wants, Messi gets; Paulinho couldn't take the free-kick and he was a Barcelona player just a couple of months later.

To be honest though, I'm not sure about Lionel's game-management here, as I would do just about anything to have Paulinho stood over a 30-yarder than Willian, who surprisingly couldn't punish the Argentinians this time. But then again, what do I know? They won the match 1-0.