Esteban Granero, one of Espanyol's summer signings, has revealed the first time he saw Barcelona star Lionel Messi. Speaking ahead of this weekend's Catalan derby at Camp Nou, Granero explained how he discovered the Argentine. In fact, he's known of him since he was 15 years old, when Gerard Pique told him what to expect, although he didn't believe the teenage Messi would be that good. Granero was speaking to El Pais.
THE FIRST MEETING
Granero explains that "we're from the 1987 team, so I have known him for 15 years. We went to a tournament in Villarreal with [Real] Madrid and we were in the same hotel as Barça. I had a good relationship with some of the players from the national teams: Pique, Marc Valiente, Cesc... I saw Pique in the hotel. At that time, we always used to beat them. But Pique told me: 'This year we will beat you." I said no fucking way. 'Yes," he said, 'because we have a new player who is brilliant.' I asked him who and he pointed [at Messi] by the swimming pool. I saw a small kid, really small. I was sat on the edge of the pool with his feet in the water, lost in his own world, thinking about other things. Pique's a prankster, always has been, and I thought he was winding me up. In fact, I thought: He's winding me up and messing with his own teammate. That was the first time I saw Messi."
And how was his first experience against Messi on the pitch? "He [Messi] crushed us on his own. They beat us 3-0. From centre or from any dead ball, he would receive the ball short and keep the ball. He was spectacular. Very little, but strong like a rock. It was mad to see how the ball stuck to his foot. It was brutal, literally impossible to get the ball of him. It had an impact, we were terrified of what he could become! Fifteen years later, I see him on the pitch and I think: fuck, this guy is still here!," Granero, who will face Messi again on Saturday, says.