Viral Photos: Messi’s Heartwarming Moments with Baby Lamine Yamal Begin Internet Sensation

When Joan Monfort captured photos of Lionel Messi with a baby for a charity calendar nearly 17 years ago, he sensed the young man with long hair would rise to football stardom. Little did he know, the baby in those photos would make headlines too.

That baby was Lamine Yamal, the Spanish prodigy now 16 years old, who is already drawing comparisons to football greats. Yamal, the youngest ever to play for Spain, recently became the youngest player at the European Championship in Germany, where his talent shone brightly.

The rediscovered photos from 2007 went viral after Yamal’s father shared them on Instagram last week with the caption: “The beginning of two legends.”

Monfort, 56, a freelance photographer for the Associated Press and others, recalled the photoshoot held in the visitors’ locker room at Barcelona’s Camp Nou when Lamine Yamal was just a few months old. The shoot was part of an annual charity initiative by local newspaper Diario Sport and Unicef, where Barcelona players posed with children and their families.

“We organized the calendar with Unicef’s help,” Monfort explained. “There was a raffle in Roca Fonda, Mataró, where Lamine’s family lived. They won the raffle to have their picture taken with a Barça player at Camp Nou.”

It wasn’t a straightforward session, Monfort remembered, especially as Messi, then 20 and already a burgeoning talent, was unsure how to handle the baby, who was seated in a plastic tub for the shoot.

“Messi is quite reserved and shy,” Monfort said. “He walked into another locker room and found himself with a tub of water and a baby. It was challenging for him; he didn’t know how to hold the baby at first.”

While Messi would go on to become a global football icon in the years following, Yamal, like Messi, progressed through Barcelona’s esteemed La Masia academy. Despite his youth, Yamal has been a standout performer for Spain at Euro 2024, with the team set to face France in the semi-finals on Tuesday. His 17th birthday falls on the eve of the final in Berlin.

Monfort, who has been a sports photographer since 1991 and followed Barcelona extensively, never imagined the photos would resurface with such fanfare. “It’s incredibly thrilling to be associated with something that has caused such excitement,” he said. “Honestly, it’s a wonderful feeling.”

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