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History of the incredible photo of Lionel Messi and Lamine Yamal

Sometimes reality surpasses imagination, or AI Art

History of the incredible photo of Lionel Messi and Lamine Yamal Sometimes reality surpasses imagination, or AI Art

Sometimes it seems like destiny sees us very well and that the future is written by someone who already knows the end of the stories, otherwise it's difficult to explain how in December 2007 a young Lionel Messi was photographed together with an even younger Lamine Yamal for a charity calendar. Messi, at the time only twenty years old, was the rising star of the Blaugrana team still under the Frankie Rijkaard's control and was called along with many of his teammates to appear in the photos for the charity calendar created by the Barcelona club foundation and the Catalan newspaper Diario Sport, with the proceeds going to charities such as UNICEF and various NGOs in Catalonia. Twelve players for twelve months photographed together with children from the Barcelona area, that was the concept. Over the years, hundreds of children have had the fortune of being immortalized in the Barca calendars, but none of them remember much of the experience and the photos, over fifteen years later, are now tucked away in family drawers. 

All except one. A few days ago, Mounir Nasraoui, the father of the young phenomenon of Barca and Spain, Lamine Yamal, published one of these photos on Instagram, which portrays none other than Lionel Messi bathing baby Yamal. Lamine was six months old, living in Mataro, a city 40 kilometers from Barcelona, with his family and, of course, had not yet touched a football ball. Initially, everyone shouted "photoshop" or "dreaded AI art." After all, what were the chances that a photo like this, featuring the future eight-time Ballon d'Or winner and his successor in the blaugrana jersey, had actually been taken? And yet, the photographer of this historic shot, Joan Monfort, surprised by The Athletic, confirmed the authenticity and shared some behind-the-scenes details of the shoot that took place 16 years ago. "It was a difficult photo to take, I can say that I sweated blood to take it" revealed the photographer.

Monfort explained how initially Messi was quite shy and interacting with the child was very difficult. We must not forget that even the Barca star was a young man just starting out, "very shy and reserved" according to Monfort, and it was crucial for Yamal's mother to intervene to help the twenty-year-old Messi. "It's something incredible", Monfort continued to The Athletic. "At the time, no one could imagine that this child would become what he is now - and we couldn't even know that Messi would become what he has become". A lucky coincidence, "a one in a million chance of happening" says Monfort, a magical intersection of destinies immortalized on film. And this photo remained hidden for years, until the prophecy contained within it came true with Lamine Yamal leading the Spanish National Team with his dribbling skills during Euro2024. In what many have already called Yamal's baptism by Messi, as if a photoshoot for a calendar had turned into a ritual ceremony between the two Barca superstars of yesterday and today.