At age 27, Lionel Messi is already one of the best players of all time.
With an upset win over Germany in the World Cup final at the Maracana on Sunday, he'll become a national hero in a country that has been notoriously reluctant to embrace him as one of their own.
Part of that reluctance is based on the assumption that he's more Spanish than Argentinian. He left Rosario, Argentina, at age 13 and has lived in Barcelona ever since.
The reason he left, though, might have more to do with his first club than with Messi himself.
In a 2010 Sports Illustrated profile, S.L. Price reported that Messi began taking growth hormones that cost $1,500 for a 45-day cycle at age 11. He was playing with the youth team of a club called Newell's Old Boys at the time. When he was 13, Messi's dad's company stopped covering the cost of the medicine.
According to Price, the Messi family asked the club to cover the medicine. Newell's made a few $500 payments and then stopped. The Messis looked for a new club, and Barcelona stepped in and agreed to pay for the medicine if Leo signed with them. Messi moved to Spain, and the rest is history.
It's one of the worst sports moves of all time. If Newell's simply paid for the medicine, they could have sold Messi for a monster price once he came of age.
The club maintains that it gave the Messi family $8,000 for the medicine, according to Price. The former president even carries around some wrinkled receipts that allegedly prove the payments were made, Price reports. But ESPN's Wright Thompson, who did a big story on Messi, saw the receipts and says they "seem like forgeries" designed to save the club from the embarrassment of losing Messi over a few thousand dollars.
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