First, he put bricks in it, then he took out the refrigerators. Milan’s sensational hero in the Football Champions League

This is an updated version of the text that appeared on Sport.pl this summer

After four rounds of the Champions League, Milan had just a point on his account and only illusory chances of advancing to the next round. The more that on Wednesday he faced Atletico in Madrid. In the 65th minute, Junior Messias appeared on the pitch, who had just made his debut in the Champions League, although he had already turned 30 in May. In the 87th minute, Franck Kessie crossed into the penalty area, and the Brazilian headed Milan with a 1-0 win. And he extended the chance of the runner-up Serie A to advance to the knockout stage. Today, the whole of Europe has met him, and the fans of the Italian league found out about his existence only a year ago.

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Crotone was relegated from the league last season. To put it bluntly: it fell with a bang, losing 27 matches and conceding 92 goals in 38 queues. And yet the newcomer Serie A has gained a few loser fans. Because although he was mainly hit by his rivals, he was able to come out with face even from painful defeats.

In this way, several players managed to promote even in such a miserable season. Goalkeeper Alex Crodaz became a replacement for Samir Handanovic at Inter, Nigerian forward Sima, 20 goals scored player, has earned a transfer to Salernitana, the new champion of the league. The key player for Crotone, however, was Junior Messias – an attacking midfielder who scored nine goals and had four assists.

He is a wizard with the ball at his feet

His recent transfer to Milan is one of the biggest summer surprises for Serie A. His story is unique not only because he is turning the relegate into a football paradise in Milan.

He even made it through the famous Cruzeiro academy as a child, but didn’t stay there for long in the end. – I learned to play kicking the ball with my friends in the street. Sometimes I would come out with the ball myself and just bounce it off the wall. I played wherever there was a piece of free space. It was beautiful – he recalls years later.

When he was a teenager, however, there was little indication that he would be able to become a professional footballer and live off the ball. He decided that he would play as an amateur and earn his living in a different way. At the age of 20, he followed in the footsteps of his parents who, in pursuit of a better quality life, went to Italy.

Junior Messias ended up on the Apennine Peninsula, where he kicked in amateur clubs and worked as a bricklayer. – Everything was different here. I was shocked because I had never left my village before. I met a different world, but I adapted quickly and started working – says the Brazilian.

However, the brick-laying cash register was not the best, so he took a job as a courier for household appliances. In 2016, at the age of 25, he was noticed by the Serie D Casale. While he was not earning coconuts at the time, scoring goals was enough to survive in Italy. He quit his job as a courier and focused on football, changing clubs to Gozzano on the way – also with Serie D.

The turning point was 2019. Then he joined Crotone, with which he was promoted to Serie A. Something that until recently seemed to be an unspeakable dream became a reality in which it was hard to believe at all.

Last season, Messias already excelled in the top division. Even if Crotone was losing heavily, and their defeat was predictable, it was worth turning on the TV for the Belo Horizonte-born footballer. He behaves like a typical Brazilian on the grass. And how a typical Brazilian will fall in love with football dreamers. Messias is comfortable with the ball and is reluctant to give it back. He likes to dribble, but he is very effective at it. Only Udinese’s Rodrigo De Paul (who joined Atletico Madrid in the summer) recorded more successful dribbles. And when Messias was losing the ball, it was usually due to an opponent’s fault. He was the fourth most fouled player in the league.

A bricklayer who will play in the Champions League

On the last day of the transfer window, just before the deadline, Milan announced the acquisition of Junior Messias. The transfer risk is negligible. The 30-year-old was loaned out for a year for 2.5 million euros. If it works, Milan will add another six million to Crotone.

– I am humble, I will play for the team. I didn’t believe I would succeed anymore, I was just playing for fun. Year after year, season after season, I worked to play higher and higher, and when I got into Serie B, I worked to find myself in Serie A. Dreams come true, believe me – said the Brazilian before the season, who only scored in the current competition 49 minutes in Serie A, and in LM he played for the first time against Atletico.

– He’s ready to play in the Champions League. I was surprised that other top clubs were not interested in him – praises Serse Cosmi, former coach.

And he was right.

About David Martin

David Martin is the lead editor for Spark Chronicles. David has been working as a freelance journalist.

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