Lionel Messi and Neymar may wear the No10 and 11 jerseys for Barcelona, but there was a time when they sported the same numbers for opposing sides. The man born in the same city as Che Guevara, Valeria Mazza and Angel Di Maria propelled the Catalans to a 3-1 victory over Manchester United at Wembley in the 2010/11 UEFA Champions League final. The poker-loving son of Mogi das Cruzes inspired Santos to a 2-1 defeat of Penarol – at the Pacaembu in his home state of Sao Paulo – in the Copa Libertadores decider a few weeks later.
Those results secured the European and South American champions tickets to the FIFA Club World Cup, and after successfully navigating their semi-finals, they faced off for the trophy in Yokohama. The fixture was billed as a showdown between the 24-year-old FIFA Ballon d’Or holder and the teenager many believed would eventually succeed him as the best player on the planet. Ultimately, Messi scored twice as Barça won 4-0.
Following a couple of memorable years in Morocco, the Club World Cup will return to Japan in December – the draw for the competition will stream live on FIFA.com on Wednesday. And Messi and Neymar will return to the tournament – this time in the same colours.
The amigos are set to be adversaries beforehand though. Argentina will host Brazil in the first 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ qualifier Neymar will be eligible to participate in following suspension.
The Barça team-mates have encountered twice before in internationals. Messi scored a tremendous treble to snatch Argentina a come-from-behind 4-3 win in a 2012 friendly in New Jersey – his late winner was among the ten nominations for that year’s FIFA Puskas Award. Neymar got revenge by leading Brazil to a 2-0 victory in Beijing last October.