Alessandro Costacurta Reveals Nightmare Defending 16-Year-Old Lionel Messi

FC Barcelona's Argentinian Messi celebra
A young Lionel Messi celebrates scoring for FC Barcelona | LLUIS GENE/Getty Images

Milan legend Alessandro Costacurta has spoken about the time he came up against a 16-year-old forward by the name of Lionel Messi – and asked to be subbed after a quarter of an hour.

Costacurta spent a total of 28 years connected to Milan as a player, both as a youngster and senior pro.

The former centre-back accumulated an incredible total of almost 700 career appearances for the Rossoneri, and retired in 2007 as a five-time European Cup/Champions League winner.

Alessandro CostacurtaAlessandro Costacurta
Alessandro Costacurta in action for Milan | Michael Steele/Getty Images

Also capped 59 times by Italy, only two players history have played more games for Milan – Paolo Maldini and Franco Baresi.

Speaking to Marca, Costacurta admitted he took a certain Argentine winger’s young age for granted when he first faced him.

“I faced Messi when he was only 16 years old,” he said. “At first, I saw him as a child and did what he wanted.

“After a quarter of an hour, I had to ask [Carlo] Ancelotti to replace me.”

AC Milan's captain defender Alessandro C...AC Milan's captain defender Alessandro C...
Costacurta with former manager Carlo Ancelotti | ANDREAS SOLARO/Getty Images

It’s clear this nightmarish meeting with Messi as a young apprentice has made Costacurta a big fan of the Barcelona star man’s playing style. Between Messi and Diego Maradona, for Costacurta there is only one winner.

He added: “They are similar because of their genius and the way they express themselves on the field, but Messi is more [of a] genius than Maradona. The difference is that we could do 66 fouls to Maradona before being warned [booked by the referee]. With Leo it is different, football is now something else.”

Diego Maradona, Lionel MessiDiego Maradona, Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi playing under Diego Maradona at the 2010 World Cup | Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Since the domineering Italian central defender retired from the game, Messi has hit double figures in the league alone in every single season, 14 in total so far.

On the international stage, the best either Costacurta of Messi has managed at the FIFA World Cup is a second-place finish. The Italian achieved that feat in 1994 losing to Brazil in the final, while Messi’s Argentina fell to defeat at the hands of the Germans in 2014.