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Ernesto Vecchio, early coach of Lionel Messi at Newell's, dies aged 65

Ernesto Vecchio, one of Lionel Messi's first coaches, died at his home in Rosario on Thursday at the age of 65.

Vecchio, who coached youth teams at Sarmiento de Rosario until his death, was the coach who spent most time with Messi at Newell's Old Boys, where he worked for 28 years.

Newell's confirmed the news on Twitter, offering condolences to Vecchio's family.

Vecchio, born on July 30 1951, began his coaching career in 1984 but it was not until 1995 that he began to coach Newell's 1987 generation, which included Messi.

"Before Messi arrived at Newell's, all of Rosario was talking about this talented kid who was playing in Abanderado Grandoli," Vecchio once said in an interview with La Nacion.

"When I began working with him he demonstrated that he had an attitude, skill and technique which was different to the rest.

"Once he received the ball by his own goal, began to go past players and when he got to the goalkeeper, they clashed legs, but instead of rolling the ball into an empty net, Lionel stopped and asked the referee for someone to attend the [injured] goalkeeper.

"I also remember in one of his last games for Newell's he was ill, but he came anyway and we left him on the bench.

"As we were losing 1-0, I called him and asked him if he was OK to play. He said yes and he went on and won the game for us, scoring a goal and providing a magnificent assist."

According to reports in Argentina, Vecchio died suddenly a day after having coached the youth team at Leones FC, a club that is part of the Messi Foundation.

Samuel Marsden covers Barcelona for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @SamuelMarsden.

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