Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Only one Lionel Messi? Turns out, there’s quite a few

Only one Lionel Messi? Turns out, there’s quite a few

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Japanese Takefusa Kubo and Canadian Ryan Gauld. AFP

Only one Lionel Messi? Turns out, there’s quite a few

As Argentine superstar Lionel Messi leaves Barcelona and looks set to sign for Paris Saint-Germain, he takes with him a legacy which has inspired a legion of lesser-known players who have been compared, often against their will, to the 34-year-old.

AFP Sport looks at a Messi for every occasion:

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Arabian Omar Abdulrahman. AFP

The Arabian Messi: Omar Abdulrahman

The UAE international wears the number 10 shirt, just like the real Messi, and has won a clutch of awards in his time, including Asian Player of the Year.

Now 29 years old, Abdulrahman, easy to spot with his Afro hairstyle, has spent all of his career in the UAE, mostly with Al Ain although he once had a two-week trial with Manchester City.

Media in the Gulf dubbed him ‘the Arabian Messi’; on his better days that has even stretched to ‘the Asian Messi’.

In 2016, he scored with a Panenka penalty in a friendly against Messi’s Barcelona.

The BBC once asked if he was the ‘best footballer you have never heard of’.

The Japanese Messi: Takefusa Kubo

Kubo was dubbed ‘the Japanese Messi’ by Spanish media due to his small stature and dribbling skills when he was at Barcelona’s academy.

Now, still only 20, he is on Real Madrid’s books and has spent time out on loan to Mallorca, Villarreal and Getafe.

His goals helped Japan to the semi-finals at the Olympics before they lost in the bronze medal play-off.

The Irish Messi: Zak Gilsenan

Dubbed as the ‘Irish Messi’ after joining Barcelona’s La Masia Academy at the age of 9, Gilsenan eventually switched to Liverpool and now plays at Blackburn Rovers.

He said the Messi comparison was a “bit strange”.

He was born in Perth and has chosen to represent Australia at international level even though both his parents are Irish.

He also says Neymar, not Messi, is his idol.

“I love watching videos of him and used to try and copy his skills. I was at Barcelona when he was playing for the club, so it was great to see him up close,” said the 18-year-old.

The Scottish Messi: Ryan Gauld

Now 25 and playing with Vancouver Whitecaps in Canada, Gauld started his career at Dundee United before a move to Sporting Lisbon in 2014.

After two seasons, he was loaned out to other Portuguese clubs before a permanent deal with Farense.

The Messi moniker came when he was 16 and still in Scotland.

“I wasn’t bothered by it but it’s when you see it on social media: ‘This guy was meant to be Mini Messi, look at him now.’ All that kind of nonsense. The actual name didn’t bother me, it was just when people read that they judged me a little quicker and expected more,” he said after his roller-coaster spell in Portugal.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Iranian Sardar Azmoun. AFP

The Iranian Messi: Sardar Azmoun

Iranian striker Azmoun made his international debut at 19 but has spent most of his club career in Russia.

Currently, he plays at Zenit Saint Petersburg.

He quit the national team in 2018 at 23 following Iran’s poor performance at the World Cup but then had a change of heart 12 months later and is key to hopes of his country making the 2022 finals in Qatar.

“He has had many nicknames in recent years after shining for Iran and his clubs in the Russian League. Iranian Messi and Iranian Zlatan are the most used. He picks the last one and has said he loves Zlatan and his style on the pitch,” Iranian journalist Alireza Ashraf told The Bleacher Report.

“Azmoun believes that his football doesn’t look like Messi’s at all.”


  • Prince Norodom Ranariddh passes away at 77

    Prince Norodom Ranariddh, the second son of the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk and former First Prime Minister of Cambodia, has passed away in France at the age of 77. “Samdech Krom Preah Norodom Ranariddh has passed away this morning in France just after 9am Paris-time,”

  • Cambodia purchases 4 million Molnupiravir tablets

    Cambodia has arranged for the purchase of four million US-made Molnupiravir pills – enough to treat 100,000 Covid-19 patients – even though the current rate of daily infections in Cambodia remains low. The medicine will be distributed to state hospitals, pharmacies and private clinics, according to the Samdech

  • Rise in planned flights lifts travel hopes

    Six airlines have applied to resume flights in December, while two others have put in for additional flights and routes, according to State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) head Mao Havannall on November 29. These account for 43 new weekly domestic and international flights in December, up 16

  • Is Cambodia’s travel sector in for another cheerless holiday season?

    The travel and tourism sector was heaving back to life as borders started to reopen, promising a festive vibe for the holidays and New Year. But Omicron and other Covid-related issues are threatening to close the year on a bleak note ‘Seems [like] Covid-19 won’

  • Cambodia, Thailand to discuss border reopening

    Cambodian authorities from provinces along the Cambodia-Thailand border will meet with Thai counterparts to discuss reopening border checkpoints to facilitate travel, transfer of products and cross-border trade between the two countries. Banteay Meanchey provincial deputy governor Ly Sary said on November 22 that the provincial administration

  • Cambodia planning new border checkpoint at Thma Da

    Cambodia is looking into the possibility of opening a new Thma Da Border Checkpoint with Thailand to boost trade and tourism. The Ministry of Public Works and Transport said on December 4 that Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol led a technical working group