Lionel Messi told Argentina players to stop teasing Alexis Mac Allister over being ginger.
The Brighton attacking midfielder, who scored for Argentina in their World Cup clash against Poland on Wednesday night, received his first call up to the national team in August 2019.
He, of course, has the pleasure of working with the country's captain and all-time goalscorer in training.
In fact, ahead of his debut for La Albiceleste against Chile at the Los Angeles Coliseum, Mac Allister was more nervous about meeting Messi for the first time than anything else.
"I was red, completely red," Mac Allister told The Athletic. "I didn’t want even to say hello. I was really nervous even to meet one of the best players in the world, but it was fantastic, of course.
“It’s something I’m not going to forget. It was magic when my dad played with Maradona and I could train with Lionel Messi. We are very proud of it.”
But Messi was very welcoming to the former Argentinos Juniors man and leapt to his defence when other players were calling 'Colo' - which means ginger in Argentina.
Knowing that Mac Allister didn't enjoy the playground insult over his hair colour, he told them to stop.
"I trained with him when I was in the Argentinian squad twice, but I didn’t play with him,” Mac Allister added.
"It was fantastic, the same as in the matches he trains. It’s something you cannot believe.
“I remember everyone called me ‘Colo’, which is ginger in Argentina. I don’t like it much and he told the team-mates that. He said, ‘He doesn’t like to be called Colo, so don’t call him that!’.”
Mac Allister wears the No.10 that is associated with Messi and does bear a resemblance to the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner.
But the 23-year-old has his own unique story. His name and ginger hair comes from his Irish ancestry.
Alexis' father Carlos also played as a left-back for Boca Juniors and linked up with Diego Maradona. He too was ginger, while his brother, Kevin Mac Allister, is also a footballer.
Mac Allister, who opened the scoring for Argentina against Poland on Wednesday night, has played 15 times for Brighton this season, scoring five times in total.
Featured Image Credit: Alamy
- Argentina star Alexis Mac Allister argues with his dad about Lionel Messi and Diego Maradona
- Lionel Messi and Argentina slammed for 'lack of black representation' during World Cup victory
- Argentina legend Lionel Messi says playing at the 2026 World Cup will be “difficult”
- Fan creates epic trailer for Lionel Messi documentary, it's giving goosebumps