Leo Messi has had multiple friends and rivals in football. Let's take a look at the biggest ones La Pulga has made over the years.
Being a professional footballer is always a hard task.
One truly suffocating trait the player must possess is professionalism . A footballer must keep cool at all cost, on and off the pitch under any circumstances.
It's very hard to keep your cool once someone has gotten in your head with their taunts all game. Some are known for their unsportsmanlike behaviour and are often reprimanded for their offences by the fans, if not the referees. A good example of this type of player could be Emre Can, the German midfielder lost his cool at the Parc Des Princes a few weeks ago and was deservedly criticized for his tough tackle on Neymar and it got him sent off. He continued to rattle Neymar after his expulsion and was reprimanded by the whole footballing world for his antics.
Normally, less problematic players are likely to be adored by the whole globe, even by their rivals.
It's fair to say Leo Messi has been a fairly professional player in his whole career and has made many acquaintances throughout his illustrious career at Camp Nou. However, he has also disagreed with many others and argued with them during games.
Let's take a look at Leo's best friends and enemies in the football world and make a lineup out of it.
Goalkeeper: Jose Manuel Pinto.
Despite playing second fiddle to Victor Valdes at Camp Nou for nearly a decade, Pinto is one of Leo's best friends off the pitch. They have a strong bond and Messi also tried to help Pinto in his new music career by promoting his work recently.
However, the keeper was never the best in goal. He only made 31 league appearances while at Camp Nou and profited from Valdes' injury in 2014 to get some playtime in the club's only trophy-less season in the last decade.
Right-Back: Dani Alves.
Dani Alves and Messi perhaps had the best connection in world football for nearly a decade. The Brazilian is Messi's third highest assist-maker, ranking higher than Xavi or Iniesta when it comes to assists for the Argentine goalscorer. In total, 42 assists were given by the attacking full-back and their connection seemed at its highest against PSG a few years ago, when the Brazilian's perfect assist led to a crucial away goal in a 2-2 draw in the quarters of the Champions League. The finish was unquestionably brilliant but the outside of the foot pass from Alves was just exquisite and eliminated the whole french defence by itself.
A truly iconic duo.
Center-Back: Javier Mascherano.
Regarded as the biggest leader La Albiceleste had at their disposal for nearly a decade, El Jefecito also partnered Messi in Catalonia. His undeniable leadership skills accompanied by his clutch moments when needed in defence have made Messi appreciate the midfielder turned defender at Camp Nou.
His most clutch moment with Messi was at the 2014 World Cup. With the speedster Arjen Robben running through on goal in the semi-final between Argentina and the Netherlands, Javier Mascherano's last-ditch tackle saved the whole nation from the loss and the blue team went on to win the game on penalties.
His mental attributes are the most looked up to by his fellow countryman and he has created a bond with him that's nearly unbreakable due to all the years they've spent together on the pitch, battling it out for their side to win it all.
Center-Back: Gerard Pique.
It's a recurring theme but another Barcelona player makes the list. Leo started his career at the Camp Nou and was climbing through the ranks around the same time Pique came around at Barca.
Despite a reported disagreement on the captaincy at Barca, Messi and Pique appreciate each other's company and other than being teammates on the pitch they are associates in real life.
Both of them have shares in FC Andorra and Gerard stated that "Messi is part of the Kosmos family," Pique's business.
Reportedly, they are also working on a revamp of the Tennis tournament, the Davis Cup. Having shared so much on and off the pitch throughout the years, it is clear the duo are more than acquaintances and appreciate each other and the World Cup winner has backed the Argentinean up in the never ending Ronaldo/Messi debate on multiple occasions.
Left-Back : Jordi Alba.
Maybe Messi's favourite teammate in the Barca squad in terms of tactics and footballing ability. In Jordi Alba's 8 years in Catalonia, the former Valencia fullback has developed a strong relationship with his captain. The Alba-Leo connection was Ernesto Valverde's biggest tactical development in his two and a half years in the Catalan capital. The understanding between them is so outstanding that you'd think they'd find each other even blindfolded. The former La Masia player is the player with the fifth most amount of assists for Leo with 20.
Their club winning thanks to them has made them like each other even more and the left-back also possesses a big mouth, much like Pique. However, he is more often than not backed up by his captain who defended him and other under-performers after the Anfield debacle last season.
A friendship that has grown a lot ever since their first games on the same pitch.
Midfielder: Cesc Fabregas.
Another La Masia graduate. Messi and Cesc have known each other for the longest time and appreciate each other's company since then.
When Cesc came back from Arsenal in 2011, Messi was the happiest man ever and despite his disappointing time at the Camp Nou, the midfielder had clutch moments and showed resilience to stay even though he wasn't especially liked by cules.
Since his departure to Chelsea in, they have linked up in London along with their wives multiples times. Daniella Semaan and Antonela Roccuzzo are also best friends and their relationship has evolved to a whole new level as they learnt to link up on Instagram or on any social media platform to show their friendship.
Surely in Leo's top 3 friends off the pitch.
Midfielder: Xavi Hernandez.
The midfield maestro. Part of a legendary midfield trio, Xavi Hernandez' orchestra was in complete sync whenever their maestro was in the mood. In nearly a decade alongside the goalscorer, he ranks fourth in terms of assists to Messi with 34.
His understanding with the six-time Ballon d'Or winner was by far one of the best football had ever seen. It reached its peak against Manchester United in Rome in 2009. In the middle of his man of the match performance, the Spaniard's lobbed ball found the head of none other than Lionel Messi to score against a stunned Edwin Van Der Sar and his towering defence consisting of Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand.
Xavi's departure in May 2015 has caused a lot of problems in the Barca midfield and Messi tried to paper over the cracks for the longest time but he surely misses Xavi and the next man in this eleven.
Midfielder: Andres Iniesta.
A part of Barcelona's most incredible midfield trio alongside Xavi and Sergio Busquets, Iniesta is surely, with Xavi, in the top three players the Argentina captain misses the most.
His versatility was one of his main attributes and he was more than capable playing on the left wing or as a central midfielder.
Iniesta is perhaps the man that held the midfield the most in his time at Barca.
Capable of superb passes accompanied by elegant rushes full of skill, he was one of Messi's favourite of what was left of the treble-winning squad after 2016.
Adored by every cule, big moments reflecting his great partnership with the Argentinean would be his goal assisted by Messi in the 4-3 El Clasico win in 2014 or the "Iniestazo" goal at Stamford Bridge in 2009 to proceed to the final of this CL's edition also assisted by Leo. The forward fed his teammate and Iniesta scored seven minuted into the first half. Normally though, Iniesta would assist the six-time Ballon d'Or winner as he is the second biggest assist-maker of his former teammate with 44 assists, the last in the Champions League was against Chelsea, also at the same Stamford Bridge, in the round of 16 of the 2018 edition.
Offensive midfielder: Ronaldinho.
Regarded as one of Messi's biggest inspiration, Ronaldinho was the first mentor the captain had at the time. Under the Brazilian's wing, Leo learned much more football than at any academy.
Always seen with a smile on his face, the offensive midfielder assisted the 32 year-old for his first goal and it seems like the Argentinean is more than grateful for his time spent at the Camp Nou with the World Cup winner.
Football really changed under Ronaldinho, but he always thought Leo was going to surpass it as he told the late Kobe Bryant in 2006. It seems like Leo has learnt the most under his mentor and thinks really highly of him, stating that the Brazilian is the best Barcelona player ever on multiple occasions.
Forward: Neymar Junior.
After Ronaldinho mentoring Leo for his first few years, it was time for Leo to help another young forward in his first seasons at Camp Nou.
When Neymar arrived in Catalonia, nobody would have thought that they would have such a strong bond even if the skillful winger left Barca in disgraceful fashion in 2017.
In 4 seasons at Barcelona, Neymar was seen as the rightful heir to Messi's throne especially after that night in Barcelona where the Blaugrana side defied all the odds to win the tie 6-5 after a 4-0 defeat in the away leg. In that game, Neymar took one penalty and scored from a direct free-kick. It was clear Messi was beginning to give the Brazilian more duties in attack in order for him to become the next big thing.
A big part of the devastating MSN trio, Neymar was surely Messi's favourite at Barca for 4 years.
Forward: Luis Suarez.
The last component of the MSN front-line, the Uruguayan striker has worked wonders at the Camp Nou,
In only six years in the Catalan capital, he is two goals shy of the third greatest goalscorers for Barca with 182 and first in terms of assist to Leo with 48.
Along with Neymar, he represents the closest player to Messi in recent years and the game that made it all click for the greats was against Atletico Madrid in January 2015 that kick-started the successful treble run in 2015.
Much like Cesc, his wife has become good friends with Antonela and that has caused the two of them to become closer and closer with every passing year.
Coach: Pep Guardiola.
Messi's second mentor ever. Before Pep's appointment at Camp Nou, Leo was an injury prone player with no discipline whatsoever.
Pep instilled an ideal diet for his player and won trophy after trophy in his four years with Barcelona.
Since his departure, no coach has ever had the same impact as the current Manchester City coach and that's mainly due to the sad passing of Tito Villanova.
Honourable mentions: Sergio Romero, Marcos Rojo, Sergio Busquets, Pedro, Pablo Aimar, Aguero.
It's fair to say the Barca and Argentina captain has had a lot of friends during his time in professional football. However, he is no god and is not immune to criticism by others even though there aren't a lot of footballers who showed their hatred towards the ingenious footballer. Here are the best five.
Goalkeeper: Pau Lopez.
Playing for city rivals Espanyol would never go well if you were up against the diminutive goalscorer. Despite this factor, Pau Lopez has managed to rattle Messi on multiple occasions and have the villain reputation for a truly disgusting moment. In the derby in 2016, Pau Lopez had a mare in goal for the Cornella side. Deliberately, he stamped on Messi's leg and entered the Barcelona hall of shame. He is also one to argue a lot with Leo and co when he plays against Barca.
Center-Back: Sergio Ramos.
Real Madrid's 2010 team did not really fancy Messi running around the defence with his uncontrollable dribbles and mesmerizing pace that would irritate most defenders. In fact, this squad could be entirely filled with those players but Sergio Ramos was one of the most despicable of this dark era in Real Madrid history.
His dangerous tackles often led to him being sent off, especially in El Clasico, where he holds the record for sending offs and has tried various hard tackles that could've injured the Argentine. Usually, this kind of tackles comes from the defender being fed up of the genius and is not one to hide his feelings on the pitch.
The World Cup winner is maybe one of the dirtiest players on the pitch and hates the goalscorer with all his heart.
Much like Ramos, Pepe was part of the dirty 2010 Real Madrid side who achieved nothing other than fighting on the pitch. Due to Barca's dominance in that era, Madrid players grew tired of playing and started hitting every Blaugrana player.
Pepe did it all to Messi. He tackled him as hard as Ramos did and pulled out more than dirty moves in every El Clasico. The epitome of his dirtiness perhaps was when he stepped on his opponent's hand in 2012.
Another anecdote between the two came in 2014 in El Clasico. Messi and the current Porto man trash talked each other and the encounter ended with the Argentinean scoring a hat-trick and surely shutting the Portuguese's mouth.
Midfielder: Ruud Gullit.
Although Gullit and Messi never got to play on the same pitch, the Dutchman seems to have something against the electric goalscorer.
As a pundit, Gullit has said multiple times how Messi isn't as great of a player as others tend to say.
When Messi scored an astonishing goal against Liverpool in May of last year, Ruud was quick to draw unnecessary comparisons with Cristiano Ronaldo as he thinks more highly from the Portuguese player than his Argentine rival.
Besides, he has criticized Messi on many occasions for not winning an international trophy with his Argentina squad despite La Pulga's best efforts to win with them and three international final lost in a row. It is quite clear Gullit doesn't fancy Leo.
Perhaps fearing fans of the beautiful game would forget him, Pele has had quite a few unpopular opinions about the modern game. The subject of most of them was Messi.
Criticizing Messi once and praising him another time, the youngest goalscorer in World Cup history has seemed quite undecided about Leo but has more often than not sang Ronaldo's praises in place of Leo's and hasn't failed to remind everyone that he was the best player in the world at the beginning of last century.
His most controversial comment about the cule was maybe when he said that Messi only had "one skill": Scoring with his left.
These ludicrous comments led to Messi fans taking it personally and almost as ludicrous stories about the Brazilian and the fact he was overrated. This hatred Messi fans have towards Pele started after Pele's comments and it is quite clear the World Cup winner might be fearing for his place as arguably the best player in history when Messi is closing in on Santos' greatest goalscorer's goal record.
The scarce amount of haters proves being one of the greatest would practically rule you out of any hate, if you are not being humiliated by your opponent.
Messi's enemies only hated him for his ability to play good football and nothing else. Anyways, his friends would back him up.