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Photos Resurface of Lionel Messi with Baby Lamine Yamal, Now Teen Soccer Star

Photos of Lionel Messi with 16-year-old soccer sensation Lamine Yamal as a baby have resurfaced as they’ve enjoyed international success on the pitch this week.

On Tuesday night, Messi, who led Argentina to a World Cup title in 2022, took his national team to the final of the Copa America after beating Canada 2-0 in a game that featured his first goal of this year’s tournament. Just hours earlier, Yamal, the teenager from Spain, became the youngest player ever to score in the European Championship when he netted a goal in a 2-0 win against France. He will turn 17 on Saturday — one day before the final.

The players have been linked before as Yamal currently stars for FC Barcelona and Messi suited up for the organization for nearly two decades. But heartwarming pictures of them together over 16 years ago have reemerged after Yamal’s father shared one of the images on his Instagram account last week. He captioned the photo “the beginning of two greats.”

In the photo series, taken in September 2007, Messi, then 20 years old and playing for Barcelona, is seen holding and bathing young Yamal in a plastic tub. There’s also a picture featuring Yamal’s mother, Sheila Ebana, with Messi as they bathed the child.

The original photos were taken by Joan Monfort, a freelance photographer for The Associated Press. Monfort recounted that the photoshoot took place in the visitors’ locker room at Camp Nou in 2007 when Yamal was just a few months old.

Players with Barcelona posed with children and their families for a calendar as part of an annual charity drive by Spanish newspaper Diario Sport and UNICEF. Monfort was in charge of the photoshoots, and Messi was paired with Yamal’s family.

“We made the calendar with the help of UNICEF,” Monfort said. “So UNICEF did a raffle in the neighborhood of Roca Fonda in Mataró where Lamine’s family lived. They signed up for the raffle to have their picture taken at the Camp Nou with a Barca player. And they won the raffle.”

Monfort also mentioned that the shoot wasn’t easy because Messi wasn’t sure how to act with Lamine. “Messi is a pretty introverted guy, he’s shy,” Monfort explained. “He was coming out of the locker room, and suddenly he finds himself in another locker room with a plastic tub full of water and a baby in it. It was complicated. He didn’t even know how to hold him at first.”

The photographer had no idea Yamal was in the photos until a friend told him they had gone viral. The excitement over the pictures is something he’s never experienced, he said, despite a long career as a sports photographer.

“It’s very exciting to be associated with something that has caused such a sensation,” he said. “To tell you the truth, it’s a very nice feeling.”

Source: CBS News, Associated Press