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He Grew Up Alongside Messi And Debuted With Him, But Even Oriol Riera Cannot Explain His Greatness

Oriol Riera, in all good sense, has had a very good professional career. He’s achieved success in the lower divisions of Spain with clubs like Cultural Leonesa and Alcorcon, and he’s secured his role as a grafting, workmanlike forward in La Liga with stints at Osasuna, his current club, and Deportivo La Coruna.

However, history will always remember Riera best as the answer to an obscure piece of pub trivia, for Riera made his senior Barca debut alongside a 16-year-old who was making his own premiere, one Lionel Messi.

Lionel Messi and Oriel Riera training

Messi and Riera training together. Photo: @sport | Twitter

That November 16 friendly against Jose Mourinho’s Porto in 2003 made Messi’s talents blatantly obvious to the Barca technical staff — he fit in seamlessly and began training with the first team. For Riera, he would never appear in a competitive match for the Blaugrana, his appearances limited to the Barca B team.

With Riera’s current club set to play Barca on Saturday, Cadena SER, a Spanish news and radio outlet, spoke with him about what it was like growing up alongside Messi and debuting with him.

“We were in the youth team after a good season,” recalls Riera. “There had been lots of injuries in the first team and the circumstances allowed us to live the experience with the first team.

“Later, [our] paths separated. For the first few years I was in touch with him, later, after a change of mobile and the distance…as well as one of us having risen so high…but we always have a chat on the pitch when we meet.”

As for Messi’s standing as a five-time Ballon d’Or winner and the consensus pick as the greatest of all time, Riera says he couldn’t have predicted such success for his La Masia friend.

“Who would have said that Messi would win so many Ballon d’Ors, Champions Leagues, La Ligas…[they] would not have been genuine, would not have been a realist. I knew he would be in the first team for many years, but I would not have said that he would be so great and spectacular.” 


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