Today Lionel Messi is probably the best free-kick shooter in the world. Hard to believe: In the Barca youth he had to give way to two others. ()
If Lionel Messi puts the ball into the free-kick, it is sometimes almost as good as a penalty for his team. In the past five years, the 33-year-old was arguably the best shooter in the world, that free kick in the 3-0 win against Liverpool in the semi-final first leg of the 2018/19 Champions League is only the most famous example of Messi’s numerous works of art with the ball at rest.
It is all the more difficult to believe that Messi had to line up in the youth of FC Barcelona when it came to kicking the free kicks. The Argentine was not even a second shooter, but only number three in the hierarchy. This was revealed by Roger Giribet, Messi’s teammate in La Masia at the time, SPOX and Goal a couple of years ago.
Free kicks in the Barca youth: “Messi was almost never allowed”
“Victor Vazquez – he was wonderful – and left-footed Juanjo Clausi kicked the free kicks. Messi was almost never allowed,” said Giribet. Clausi apparently considered himself number one among the two, but he said with a wink: “I was the shooter. But I also had to let him (Messi, the editor) in and out now and then.”
But what happened to Vazquez and Clausi? From the two who, instead of Messi in the famous 87s of the Barca youth, were responsible not only for the free kicks but also for the corners?
Vazquez, Messi’s best friend in the team at the time, who was considered unbeatable and who included Gerard Pique or Cesc Fabregas, considered some to be better than the six-time world footballer of his day. Or they saw him at least on the same level as Messi: “Leo and Victor were by far the best players in our team,” will become the future world and European champion at Fabregas Givemesport quoted. And Julio de Dios, who also belonged to the team and now plays in the third Spanish league, agreed FourFourTwo: “Vazquez was probably the best technician with us.”
Victor Vazquez plays three times for Barca
When the “Class of 87” gradually broke apart in 2003 and 2004 because Fabregas was drawn to Arsenal, Pique to Manchester United and Messi was gradually introduced to the professionals, Vazquez had to be at the back. “However, I stayed and hoped to play the first team again with the difference maker, Leo, one day. It took me a little longer, but I’m proud to have made it,” said the former Spanish youth international .
However, Vazquez was known to be denied his buddy’s world fame. He should only play three competitive games for Barcelona’s first team: once in LaLiga, in April 2008 against Huelva. And twice in the Champions League, where he also scored his only goal against Rubin Kazan in 2010.
Otherwise, he kicked for Barca B for a few years, then went to the Belgian top club FC Bruges at the age of 24, for whom he played 173 competitive matches. Stations followed at Cruz Azul in Mexico, at FC Toronto in the MLS and at Al Arabi and Umm Salal in Qatar. Since the beginning of 2020, the now 33-year-old has been without a club – but also overjoyed to have fulfilled his dream at least a few times: “I played in the first team and scored a goal together with one of my best friends, Lionel Messi. I will take the Barcas name with me everywhere. “
Juanjo Clausi: Copa del Rey only once
And Clausi, the other free kick expert Messi had to stand behind? He never made a game for the first team of the Blaugrana and never played for Barca B. In summer 2006, after the U19, he left the Catalans and has since played for twelve different small clubs in Spain. The greatest feeling for Clausi, who currently kicks at Paterna CF, was once in the Copa del Rey: With CD Castellon, today’s third division side, he met Racing Ferrol in the second round of the Spanish Cup in 2015/16, you lost with 0: 1.
And while Vazquez and Clausi haven’t even achieved as much as Messi, they can still tell their grandchildren that they were number one and two free-kickers before one of the best footballers of all time.