Usually the death knell for any young player is to be called the 'next big thing'. The only thing worse than being called the next big thing is being called the next *insert player's nationality here* Messi.
But hypothetically speaking, if we were to assemble a team of players who were at one time called the next Leo who would we pick and indeed, how would they play?
Let's start by rounding up the first eleven.
1. Mohamed Salah
The sand Messi, the pyramid Pele... the Egyptian hotshot has been given every superlative under the sun since hitting the ground running for Liverpool. Perhaps most accomplished Messi on this list. We'll stick him in goal seeing as we're going to need a very fast 'fly-goalie'.
2. Alen Halilovic
The Croatian Messi, Halilovic did nothing to assuage comparisons with the Argentinian when he joined Barcelona in 2014. Things didn't go according to plan and the player now turns out for La Liga side Las Palmas. We'll put him as the tricky left back.
3. Wes Hoolahan
Okay so strictly speaking the tag of the Irish Messi was never given to Wes Affectionately known as Wessi, Wesley Hoolahan has been the shining light in Irish football despite being 35 and rarely playing. Centre back beckons for the Norwich man. Let's just remind ourselves why the midfielder is called 'Wessi':
4. Zak Gilsenan
The Australian/Irish protégé signed for Barcelona at just nine years of age. Check out this scratchy youtube footage and tell me he's not going to make it. Right back.
5. Zherdan Shaqiri
Currently doing it on a wet Tuesday in Stoke the Swiss Messi (also hilariously called the 'Powercube' by fans), Shaqiri has also performed on the world's greatest stage. It might be a risky decision but we'll have him partner his compatriot Wes in the defence.
6. Ryan Gauld
The so-called Baby Messi/Scottish Messi is currently on the books at Sporting Lisbon on loan to Aves. We'll shove him left wing (with the opportunity to switch).
7. Ioannis Fetfatzidis
Ioannis "Giannis" Fetfatzidis a.k.a. the Grecian Messi is tearing it up in the Saudi Arabian league for Al-Ahli. That shows you how his career trajectory has unfolded. Still check out this goal, which probably went a long way to giving him the moniker. He'll be our defensive rock.
8. Mario Gotze
The German Messi can arguably say that he has been at the pinnacle of the sport when he scored the winning goal in the World Cup final. Gotze will be our box-to-box man.
9. Bojan Krkić
Another Messi who has played for Stokelona. Bojan was also one of the wunderkids snapped up by La Masia in the hope of emulating their greatest ever player, although it hasn't exactly turned out that way. The 27-year-old now plays for Alaves on loan from Stoke. Bojan will operate on the right side of midfield.
10. Lorenzo Insigne
The Italian Messi has not done too bad for himself becoming an integral part of the Neapolitan club. He'll play just behind the striker.
11. Claudio Nancufil
The Snow Messi (dunno if that's racist or not), won a trial for Barcelona in 2013. Despite his tender age he'll be the target man.
Here's where we run into problems. With everyone hellbent as playing as a roaming midfielder and no one willing to play in their prescribed roles, the natural inclination of this team is to all pack into 'the hole' in a distinctive and quite unorthodox '0-0-11' formation.
After a few dreadful outings against technically inferior sides, there will be a team meeting where the players will decide to engage in an 11-way death match where only the man who shows the requisite passion and desire will be able to play the coveted 'Messi' role. The bloodthirsty Fetfatzidis, emerges victorious from this attritional battle and despite claiming the mantle of roaming midfielder he also has no team to play with.