To his legions of admirers around the world, Lionel Messi is the undisputed G.O.A.T. – the Greatest Of All Time.
And, as we count down to the Argentina and Barcelona star’s latest crack at winning the elusive World Cup, one magazine has taken that literally.
New York-based culture magazine Paper persuaded Messi to pose with a herd of goats – with pretty impressive results.
Wearing the Argentina home shirt for the tournament in Russia and a whole load of other merchandise supplied by sponsor Adidas, Messi is pictured holding and stroking various goats.
The goats came from La Granja Natura, a Barcelona-based petting zoo, and their vets were on hand to ensure no goats were harmed during the photoshoot.
According to the write-up in Paper, Messi was a natural with the animals. ‘I am a big fan of animals,’ he said.
‘I grew up with them and they have taught me many things. Now we have our dog Hulk [a large French mastiff] who really is part of the family, we always include him.
‘Our children learn so much from Hulk. The love shown between him and the kids and the kids and him is constant.’
Messi, 30, has won every club honour going with Barcelona, but his claim to be the greatest of all-time really would be validated if he leads Argentina to glory in Russia this summer.
Many believe Messi won’t be on the same level as his countryman Diego Maradona – not to mention Brazilian legend Pele – in the all-time stakes until he lifts the World Cup.
The World Cup – indeed any major international honour – continues to elude the superstar, with Argentina agonisingly beaten by Germany in the 2014 World Cup final.
Argentina have been paired with Iceland, Croatia and Nigeria in their World Cup group and Messi isn’t getting carried away when describing the team’s chances.
He told Paper: ‘We still have to make ourselves stronger as a team to be in the running to win and be at the same level as other teams like France, Germany, Brazil or Spain.
‘But we have a good group of players and the Argentine team is always going to be a candidate to win, it doesn’t matter how we get there.
‘We always aim to win and we will try to go slowly but strongly to advance in the competition.’