There are few things in life that are universally agreed upon. The toilet paper either goes over or under (it’s over); Marmite is either delicious or repulsive (it’s delicious); you either wash your legs or let the suds do the work (I’m all about the suds); Pineapple on pizza (I refuse to confirm nor deny my love for it); the list could go on for days.
However, every now and then, something comes along that unites the people. A phenomenon so steeped in majesty that any attempt to deny its magnificence would be futile.
I am, of course, talking about Messi’s wand of a left foot.
Messi’s Sweet Left Foot
Never has there been a phrase more synonymous with Lionel Messi. It’s near impossible to count the number of times this accolade has been bestowed upon Argentina’s number 10, but any number wouldn’t surprise you due to the sheer accuracy of both the description and his wand of a left foot. With the lion’s share of his 821* career goals coming with his left foot (687*), it’s clear that the former Barcelona forward does indeed have a sweet left foot. However, did you know that Messi also has something of a sweet tooth?
This is according to his former youth coach, Carlos Marconi. As cited in a New York Times article, Marconi tells of a rather unconventional method he used to motivate the future superstar—alfajores.
“Messi was a really picky eater, but he eventually figured out that Messi had a weakness for alfajores (a lethally delicious confection made of cookies sandwiching dulce de leche, sometimes covered in chocolate).”
The simplest description of this South American delicacy is that it’s a ‘sandwich cookie’. An Argentinian cookie filled with dulce de leche, rolled in coconut. Having learned of alfajores just this morning, I’m not yet able to attest to the validity of their deliciousness, but if it’s good enough for arguably the greatest footballer to have played the game, it’s good enough for me.
In the article, referencing an old TV interview, it states that Marconi and Messi came to an agreement: “a cookie for each goal.”. This backfired on the Newell’s Old Boys coach pretty quickly, with the young Argentinian, unsurprisingly, scoring multiple goals per game. So, in an attempt to save his wallet and/or his baking tray, Marconi upped the ante to two cookies for every headed goal—a seemingly harsh escalation for someone who has never been blessed with the gift of height.
A not-so-known fact about Messi is that at 11 years old he was diagnosed with a growth hormone deficiency (GHD), and he only managed to get to his current height due to being administered human growth hormones administered into alternate legs every day. This story becomes a bit more sinister when you mention that.
Was Messi perturbed? Of course not. In fact, as the article goes on to explain:
“The next game, Messi dribbled through the entire opposing team, including the goalkeeper, then stopped at the goal line to flick the ball up into the air with his foot so that he could head it into the empty net.”
As if that wasn’t enough: “When he found Marconi’s eye in the stands, Messi smiled and held up two fingers.”
The Cherry on Top
So, has this motivational tactic worked its magic in turning Messi into one of the most dangerous aerial threats in the game? In a word, no. With just 26* of his career goals scored with his head, you won’t see Messi munching on a post-game alfajor anytime soon. But he has scored a header in a Champions League final against Man United, which he very well may have celebrated by devouring an alfajor or two.
However, as Inter Miami’s star man suns himself on muscle beach in the twilight of his career, you may catch him playing a game of head tennis with his kids, racking up the snack count, and making up for lost time. If anyone deserves it, it is him.