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'9-Year-Old Messi So Good, He Played Against 15-Year-Olds'

Sampaoli, who coached a local team in Rosario – the town of Messi's birth – during the early days of his career, has insisted everyone knew about the FC Barcelona star when he was just nine.

"Of course, we all did. He was eight or nine years old and playing against 14- and 15-year-olds," he told AS.

"He was spectacular. They would only play him 10 minutes so that the opponents didn't suffer too much."

In his home country, there is an ongoing debate as to whether or not Messi is as great as Argentina legend Diego Maradona, and Sampaoli gave his views on the debate.

"It's tough to compare two players from two different eras," he added.

"The difference for me is that Maradona played more of an amateur style, of pure passion. Messi is more professional."


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