Joan Laporta says Lionel Messi is a “gift that fell from heaven” for Barcelona and believes the five-time Ballon d’Or winner can extend his career to give plenty more joy to the Catalan club.

As part of an exclusive interview with Goal, the former Barca president recalled the first time he saw the Argentine attacker in action and admitted he was blown away by the talented teenager.

“I saw him play in the cadete [youth team] and, with 20 minutes left, he scored four goals,” he said. “He came on, with 20 minutes left, because he was coming back from an injury or something, and he scored four goals. And we stood there watching him in the youth teams: ’Look at how this kid plays, amazing!’

“He played the same as he does now. It was a very similar style. The thing is that he has matured, he has become a man. Now he is a father too. He made his debut for the first team at 16 years old. I remember the first contract we gave him and when he made his debut at the Estadio do Dragao, in Porto.”

Laporta was Barca president when Messi made his first-team bow in 2004 and saw the forward develop into the world’s best player during Pep Guardiola’s time at the club, right up until his mandate ended in 2010.

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“He has been a gift that fell from heaven, a privilege that Barça has had,” the 55-year-old lawyer said. “We need to keep enjoying him still because Leo has many years left.

Ex-Barca chief Laporta hails ‘gift’ Messi

“He is a gift that fell from heaven.” Ex-Barcelona chief Joan Laporta has paid tribute to Lionel Messi.

Posted by on Wednesday, 2 August 2017

“With the characteristics he has, I’m sure he will play on for many more years and give many more joys to Barca. And it’s a privilege. To have a player who is the best player in the history of football, but also one who has the humility that Leo has, we have seen him mature and it’s fantastic. He is a personality, a great man.”

Source: Sporting News