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When stars align: Messi's photo with a baby Lamine Yamal goes viral

This photo taken in Sept. 2007 shows a 20-year-old Lionel Messi, who had embarked on his Barcelona career, cradling Lamine Yamal, who was merely six months old at the time   -  
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Joan Monfort/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved.

UEFA Euro 2024

When Joan Monfort took photos of Lionel Messi with a baby for a charity calendar almost 17 years ago, he knew that the long-haired young man would make it big in soccer.

He could not have imagined that the little boy would as well.

The baby in the photo – which has now gone viral – was none other than Lamine Yamal, the Spanish wunderkind who at 16 is showing such promise that he’s already being compared to the greats of the sport.

Already the youngest to have played for Spain, he became the youngest player ever in the European Championship at the ongoing tournament in Germany.

The long-forgotten photo from 2007 resurfaced after Yamal’s father posted it on Instagram last week with the text “the beginning of two legends.”

Monfort, 56, who currently works as a freelance photographer for The Associated Press and others, said the photo shoot took place in the visitors’ locker room at Barcelona’s Camp Nou stadium in the fall of 2007, when Yamal was just a few months old.

Barcelona players posed with children and their families for a calendar as part of an annual charity drive by local newspaper Diario Sport and UNICEF.

Monfort was in charge of the photo shoots – and it just so happened that Messi was paired up with Yamal’s family.

His mother, who is from Equatorial Guinea, is next to Messi and the baby in one of the photos.

Messi was 20 at the time and already considered a big talent but it would take a couple more years before he made his mark as the most outstanding player of his generation at FC Barcelona and Argentina’s national team.

Like Messi, Yamal has gone through Barcelona's renowned La Masia youth academy.

Despite his young age, he's been one of Spain’s best players at the European Championship in Germany, where his team will play France in the semi-finals on Wednesday.

Yamal will turn 17 on Saturday, the day before the final in Berlin.

That the two would end up by chance in that photo in 2007 is something Monfort described as a surreal coincidence: “The stars aligned."

Monfort has had a long career as a sports photographer since 1991, following FC Barcelona around the world, but said he's never experienced this level of excitement around any of his photographs before.