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Sports'Now a legend' - History behind photos of Messi with baby Lamine...

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‘Now a legend’ – History behind photos of Messi with baby Lamine Yamal

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When Joan Monfort photographed a long-haired Lionel Messi with a baby for a charity calendar almost 17 years ago, he sensed the young man would achieve greatness in football. However, he never imagined the baby would follow a similar path.

The infant in the now-viral photos is Lamine Yamal, the Spanish prodigy. At just 16, Yamal is already being hailed as a future star, drawing comparisons to the greats.

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He recently became the youngest player to ever represent Spain and made history as the youngest player in the European Championship during the current tournament in Germany.

The long-forgotten photo from 2007 resurfaced after Yamal’s father posted it on Instagram last week with the text: “The beginning of two legends.”

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Joan Monfort, a 56-year-old freelance photographer for the Associated Press and others, recalls a photoshoot in the visitors’ locker room at Barcelona’s Camp Nou in the autumn of 2007, when Lamine Yamal was just a few months old.

During this annual charity event organized by the local newspaper Diario Sport and UNICEF, Barcelona players posed with children and their families for a calendar.

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Monfort was responsible for the photoshoots, and it was purely by chance that Messi was paired with Lamine Yamal’s family. One of the photos features Messi alongside Lamine Yamal’s mother, who is from Equatorial Guinea, and the baby.

“We made the calendar with the help of Unicef,” Monfort said. “So Unicef did a raffle in the neighbourhood 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 Barça player. And they won the raffle.”

It wasn’t an easy assignment, he recalled, mainly because Messi wasn’t sure how to interact with the baby, who was in a plastic tub for the shoot. “Messi is a pretty introverted guy, he’s shy,” Monfort said.

“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.”

At the time of the photoshoot, Messi was 20 and already recognized as a promising talent, but it would take a few more years for him to establish himself as the most outstanding player of his generation for Barcelona and Argentina.

Lamine Yamal, like Messi, has progressed through Barcelona’s famed La Masia youth academy.

Despite his young age, he has been one of Spain’s standout players at Euro 2024, where Spain will face France in the semi-finals on Tuesday. Yamal will turn 17 on Saturday, the day before the final in Berlin.

Monfort, now 56, didn’t realize it was Lamine Yamal in those 2007 photos until a friend alerted him as the images began trending online.

Monfort, who has had a long career as a sports photographer since 1991, primarily following Barcelona, said he has never seen such excitement around any of his photos before.

“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.”

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