Lionel Messi's father and agent Jorge is former factory worker who holds key to his son's transfer after Barcelona exit

Lionel Messi's father and agent Jorge is former factory worker who holds key to his son's transfer after Barcelona exit

August 6, 2021

WHATEVER the future holds for Lionel Messi, it will be his father Jorge who will help his son choose his next destiniation.

On Thursday night, it was announced the Barcelona legend, 34, will leave the club after financial restrictions meant a new contract couldn't be finalised.

The bombshell news heralds a new chapter in the record six-time Ballon d'Or winners' astonishing career.

PSG has been mooted as a possible next step, with negotiations reportedly already under way with the French giants, while Manchester City will do everything in their power to reunite Messi with his football mentor, Pep Guardiola.

But off the pitch, his biggest influence is his 63-year-old dad, a former metal factory worker in Rosario, Argentina.

Jorge Messi coached his son at local team, Grandoli before he joined Newell's Old Boys.

When the prodigy needed hormone injections for a growth deficiency disorder, Messi Sr organised for his son to have a trial at Barcelona.

The family moved to Spain when Lionel was 13, after he dazzled coaches and it was agreed the club would pay for his treatment.

"(Leo) always followed what I said to him as his coach," Jorge told Kicker in 2013.

"Even today he is still like that. He has never told me, I’m 25 now and grown up and the best player in the world.

"The other day I mentioned a couple of things to him after the game against Madrid. I’m still the same as a father as when I was his coach at Grandoli."

AIDING HIS SON'S DEVELOPMENT

Leo played his first few games at the local Grandoli club, before it was immediately recognised he had a natural flair for the game.

Football fan Jorge was there, coaching his son and giving him pointers.

But it wasn't long before Rosario's most famous club Newell's Old Boys came calling.



By 10, Messi was diagnosed with growth deficiency disorder and he needed expensive treatment.

Although the Messis weren't poor, the £900 hormone injections were well beyond their reach.

Newell's Old Boys were also unable to fund them too, even though by this time young Leo was starting to become known thanks to a page lead in Rosario newspaper La Capital in September 2000.

BARCELONA BOUND

Lionel and Jorge soon disappeared for a few weeks – with his school and people outside the family having no idea where they went.

Newell's believed he had gone to Buenos Aires and signed for a rival club, while another vicious rumour suggested he had hepatitis.

The truth was they were in Catalonia on a trial with Barcelona. He dazzled coaches at La Masia Academy but wasn't offered a deal straight away.

The Messis returned to Rosario, when Jorge organised another trial with the famous River Plate to put the squeeze on Barcelona.

Finally, in the presence of then Messi family advisors Josep Maria Minguella and Horacio Gaggioli, a deal with the Spanish club was signed on a napkin.

The pair returned to the Catalans reportedly £120,000-per-year richer, and more importantly Messi could receive the hormone treatment he needed.


PROBLEM CHILD

However, 12 months into his deal a Barcelona general manager fumed at the extortionate amount a young teen, who wasn't even close to first team action, was getting.

An upset Jorge contacted Jorge Valdano, the former general manager of Real Madrid, to see if Los Blancos would be interested in taking his son on instead.

The matter did blow over, but a senior Barça official questioned, "Who does he think he is, Maradona?"

It showed the lengths Jorge would go to ensure he and his son weren't messed with.

This, despite very few knowing who Messi was outside La Masia.

INTER YOU

Preseason in 2005, and it was the Gamper Trophy where Messi exploded onto the scene – just a few months after turning 18.

He set up a goal for Andres Iniesta in a 2-2 draw with Juventus, was heralded by their coach Fabio Capello, while 90,000 fans sung his name for the first time.

But due to pesky LaLiga rules, he couldn't play for Barcelona domestically because they had too many non-Spanish players in their line-up.


Inter Milan saw this as the perfect opportunity to swoop, and Jorge was believed to be interested when they offered a deal that tripled Lionel's Barcelona contract.

President Joan Laporta soon got involved after talks with sporting director Txiki Begiristain broke down.

Two offers were rejected that were lower than Inter's proposal, until an agreement was made – his third pay rise in just 18 months.

More importantly, Laporta managed to convince authorities to make Messi and his dad Spanish citizens. Now, Lionel could play in LaLiga with no problem at all.

Within three years of making his debut, Messi soon became Barcelona's highest-paid player, overtaking Ronaldinho.

Over the years, several contracts were put on the table to make sure the Messis were kept happy.

A FAMILY BUSINESS

Although Jorge now runs things remotely from Rosario, and other people run his businesses, he is still very much hands-on.

"He tries to do everything for his son. He has not learned how to step back and move aside and let other people work in a more professional way," a source told The Athletic.

"They are a good family, they love each other, but they do not seem to be particularly good at building relationships with people who can help them."



The Messis have an office in central Barcelona, with a receptionist, a German financial controller, private banker Alfonso Nebot, who takes care of his investments, and a former Barcelona employee Pau Negre, responsible for his international commercial work.

Deals in place with Adidas, Gatorade, Huawei, Mastercard and Pepsi bring in around £20million-per-year for the family.

While they also boast an expanding hotel portfolio with sites in Sitges, Ibiza and Mallorca, recently adding a resort in Andorra for keen skiers.

CONTROVERSIES

Although having your father as your confidant has its benefits, when Messi became big business it would've been impossible to manage his finances correctly and knowing every single law.

In 2013, the Spanish tax authorities began investigating football and discovered irregularities in Messi's earnings.

Between 2007-09, he was accused of evading £3million in taxes by creating offshore accounts in Uruguay and Belize, both tax havens, as well as the UK and Switzerland for money received from image rights deals.

"Since my son’s career started, I am talking about 2000 when we arrived in Barcelona, I have always tried to make his life easier," he told a court in 2016.

They both revealed that they had hired Argentinian tax advisors, when Messi began at Barcelona and followed their lead.

“I signed the contracts as I trusted in my dad”, Messi told the court.


They paid around £4million to cover the cost of the taxes, as well as "reparations". But that didn't satisfy the authorities.

The pair were found guilty of fraud and given suspended 21 month jail terms. Messi was fined around £1.7million, while Jorge received a £1.2million rap on the knuckles.

THE NEXT STEP

Potentially Messi's next move could be his last in football.

Crucially, his team and Jorge will be tasked with getting it right for the world's greatest footballer and his legacy.

Messi does have more control now than he did before, and since 2014 and the tax issue is leading his own path.

It was he who led the idea of leaving Barcelona last summer after growing disillusioned with life at the club, according to reports.

Now, it's their finances – crippled by the coronavirus pandemic – that have made his decision for him.

Be it PSG, Manchester City or elsewhere Messi will have the final say of where he plays.

But you can bet dad Jorge will have something to say in the ear of his son that will be listened to very carefully.

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