World Player of the Year Lionel Messi does not appear to be a troublemaker. He is not thought to carry any kind of ego, he appears very affable and one would expect him to be nothing but acquiescent to the demands of his coach.
According to former Swedish manager Hans Backe, however, the diminutive Argentine is not quite as submissive or ego-free as you may have thought.
Madrid-based sports newspaper Marca (link in Spanish) says the former New York Red Bulls coach appeared on Swedish channel TV4 recently, and relayed an anecdote from Barcelona's treble-winning 2008/09 season.
While manager Pep Guardiola was giving a dressing room speech, Backe asserts that Messi interrupted him to ask for a Coke. Pep denied the request, saying his players may not have that kind of drink before a game. Clearly in the mood for some delicious brown sugar water, Messi stood up, grabbed a Coke and drank it in front of all the players.
"It was a battle that Guardiola could not win," said Backe.
The story raises many questions. Why would the Barcelona dressing room have Coke if it was not allowed? What kind of grown man interrupts a speech from a senior colleague in a professional environment to ask for a soft drink? And what would Messi's sponsor Pepsi have to say about his thirst for a rival product?
Regardless of plot-holes in the anecdote, Backe was unconcerned by the prospect of being sued for telling it. "It is true, I have a long list of lawyers behind me," he said, suggesting confidence in accuracy of his tale.
Seeing as Backe would not have been in the room during this humiliating scene, it seems likely that his source was either Thierry Henry or Rafa Marquez. Both players would have been in that Barcelona dressing room, and both subsequently worked under the Swede in New York.
Do you believe the story? Let us know your thoughts below.