Junior Messias‘ late winner for AC Milan against Atletico Madrid on Wednesday evening may have restored some fans’ faith in football at the highest level, at least for a day or two.
In a time where news stories such as the Super League, the takeover of Newcastle United, and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar seem to be so common and so prevalent, it’s nice to get a little reminder that nice things can occasionally happen even at the top level.
? #UCL pod! ???? With one round of group games left, each of Italy’s four sides could be in the Champions League knockout rounds, as #Atalanta and #Milan still have hope of following #Inter and #Juventus through.
Out for €5 and €10 patrons! ?https://t.co/a1nMO8ks1B
— ForzaItalianFootball (@SerieAFFC) November 25, 2021
Football can appear a very dark place at times with people and bodies all over the game being investigated or criticised for their actions both within and outside of the sport.
That’s why when something that makes us actually feel nice about the sport happens, you have to cherish it before the next upsetting news story comes along.
Junior Messias provided one of those moments for AC Milan against Atletico Madrid on Wednesday evening, even if it did come in a tournament sponsored by a majority Russian state-owned energy corporation that has just seen one of its CEOs detained on suspicion of large-scale commercial bribery.
Junior Messias: From delivering washing machines to winning goals
Messias has a fascinating career back story when compared with those we associate with the dramatic moments in the Champions League.
Three years ago, the Brazilian was playing in Serie D with Gozzano, who were promoted to Serie C whilst he was at the club in 2018/19.
At that time he was also selling washing machines to supplement his wages, as well as other jobs such as recovering bricks from demolished buildings.
His first club was Casale who he ended up playing for after former player Elio Rossi met him whilst he was playing a local match in Turin, purely as a hobby. He was given €1,500 a month to play for Casale where he scored 21 goals in 32 games.
Messias moved to Crotone and made his Serie B debut in August 2019. He was a key part of the Rossoblu’s promotion to Serie A for the 2020/21 season. Although that campaign ended in relegation, Milan decided to take Messias on loan to bring depth to their attack.
There is an option for the Rossoneri to buy the 30-year-old for €5.4 million plus bonuses at the end of the campaign.
Messias rescues Milan
As things stood in Group B, Milan were out of the Champions League. Porto were losing away at Liverpool and the 0-0 draw with Atletico meant the Rossoneri would be waving goodbye to the Champions League for at least the rest of this season.
The game had been far from entertaining and the two teams appeared to just be nullifying each other whilst also not being too sure whether it is worth risking it all to push for a winner.
In the end, it was Milan who turned the screw and began to pen Atleti into their own half as the game entered the final 15 minutes. They needed the points more than Atleti.
Franck Kessie had done a more than solid job throughout the game screening the Milan back four. With just four minutes left of the 90 to play, he beat his man near the byline on the left-hand side and swung an inch-perfect cross in for Junior Messias to head in.
The Brazilian who had not long been introduced off the bench somehow had found acres of space inside the box of one of the most notoriously stingy defences of the past decade of European football.
His goal means that Milan have a genuine chance of making the last 16 of the Champions League when all hope seemed lost. Despite still being bottom of the group, Atletico are only ahead on goal difference and Porto only have one more point.
Milan must beat Liverpool at San Siro, a team who have already qualified as group winners, whilst hoping that Atleti and Porto draw.
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