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ESPN FC  By ESPN staff

Barcelona star Lionel Messi could end career at River Plate - D'Onofrio

ESPN FC's Paul Mariner explains why he gives the edge to Lionel Messi over Cristiano Ronaldo in this 2015 football calendar year.

Barcelona's leading goal scorer Lionel Messi would be a likely candidate to close out his career at River Plate, club president Rodolfo D'Onofrio told Spanish daily AS.

Four-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi had a brief one-week trial with the Argentine club's youth division when he was 12 back in 2000, and D'Onofrio insists contractual issues with Messi's home club of Newell's Old Boys were the only obstacle that kept the forward from switching to the Buenos Aires giant as a youngster.

"Why couldn't Messi one day finish his career at River?" D'Onofrio said. "It would be like going back to what once was his home because he had a trial here before he left for Barcelona. He told me he tried out at River but the problem was that they couldn't sign him because his contract was in the hands of Newell's.

"He went back to Rosario to try, but they gave him six months and he still hadn't played. It was then that he decided to go to Barcelona."

The Rosario native made five appearances in the youth ranks of Newell's before heading to Barcelona at age 12 as the Catalan club were better able to afford the $900-a-month hormone therapy he then required.

Leaving South America so young denied Messi a chance to build a close early relationship with fans in his home country and, even after winning so much at club level through the last decade, he has been criticised for not performing at his best in Argentina's 2014 World Cup and 2015 Copa America disappointments.

The 28-year-old, the odds-on favourite to win his fifth Ballon d'Or this month, came back from a bout with kidney stones last month to score in Barcelona's 3-0 FIFA Club World Cup win over River Plate. After scoring his goal, he told reporters in Yokohama that he had not taken any extra pleasure from beating River in such a showpiece game, with proving that Barca were the world's best side being his only objective.

"He is amazingly cordial," D'Onofrio said. "He is the best player in the world, however, he is warm, humble and friendly. The gesture he made asking for forgiveness from [River] fans, I don't know whether he did it because he is a River supporter or not, but I know it did have to do with the respect he has for Argentine football." 


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