Being offered the chance to enter Barcelona's mythical youth academy, La Masia, is like being handed a golden ticket by Willy Wonka himself to a young footballer. The press — even in the U.S. — lavish praise on the system that has had so many success stories and the relatively few kids who are deemed worthy of La Masia usually jump at opportunity (if their parents don't throw them first) to join. But 12-year-old Cassiano Bouzon decided to pass, instead opting to join Flamengo in his native Brazil.
Cassiano drew international attention as the "Next Lionel Messi" of December 2012 when clips of him scampering around opponents twice his size hit YouTube along with news that he had been invited to La Masia for a three-week trial. That resulted in the highly coveted offer from the Spanish champions, but according to Globoesporte, Barcelona did not offer to pay for his family to move with him. So Cassiano, with the help of his father, settled on joining six-time Brasileiro winners Flamengo instead.
As a result, Barcelona will have to content themselves with having the actual Lionel Messi. And Neymar. And about a dozen other kids who have been labeled the next Messi.