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Photo of Young Lionel Messi with Baby Lamine Yamal Resurfaces After 17 Years

Photo of Young Lionel Messi with Baby Lamine Yamal Resurfaces After 17 Years

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Nearly 17 years ago, freelance photographer Joan Monfort captured a series of photos featuring a young Lionel Messi and a baby for a charity calendar. Little did he know that both individuals in this seemingly ordinary photoshoot would achieve extraordinary fame in the world of soccer.

The baby in the photos is none other than Lamine Yamal, the prodigious Spanish talent who, at just 16 years old, is already being likened to football legends. Remarkably, Yamal is the youngest player ever to have played for Spain and recently became the youngest participant in the ongoing European Championship in Germany.

The forgotten photo from 2007 resurfaced when Yamal’s father shared it on Instagram last week, captioning it “the beginning of two legends.”

Monfort, 56, who works as a freelance photographer for The Associated Press and other entities, recollects the distinctive photoshoot that took place in the visitors’ locker room at Barcelona’s Camp Nou during the autumn of 2007, when Yamal was just a few months old.

In a charitable effort organized by local newspaper Diario Sport in collaboration with UNICEF, Barcelona players posed with children and their families. Messi was coincidentally partnered with Yamal’s family, whose mother, from Equatorial Guinea, is also featured in the photo beside Messi and the baby.

“We made the calendar with help from UNICEF. There was a raffle in the Roca Fonda neighborhood in Mataró where Lamine’s family lived, and they won the chance to have their picture taken at Camp Nou with a Barca player,” Monfort explained.

The photoshoot was memorable for several reasons, one of which was Messi’s initial struggle to interact with baby Lamine, who was placed in a plastic tub for the shoot.

“Messi is pretty introverted and shy,” Monfort said. “He walked into another locker room and found a plastic tub full of water and a baby in it. It was complicated. At first, he didn’t even know how to hold him.”

At the time, Messi, who was 20, was already recognized as an emerging talent. Still, it would take a few more years before he was hailed as one of the greatest players of his generation for Barcelona and Argentina.

Similar to Messi, Yamal has come up through Barcelona’s famed La Masia youth academy. Despite his tender age, he has been one of Spain’s standout performers at Euro 2024, with the national team set to face France in the semifinals on Tuesday. Yamal turns 17 on Saturday, just one day before the final in Berlin.

Monfort, now 56, was unaware that the baby in his 2007 photos was Yamal until a friend notified him as the images began trending online.

Monfort has had a long-standing career as a sports photographer since 1991, traveling the world with Barcelona, but he notes that he has never encountered this level of excitement surrounding any of his photos.

“It’s very exciting to be linked to something that has created such a buzz,” he said. “To be honest, it’s a really nice feeling.”

Source: Associated Press