Milan (AFP) – Junior Messias’ composure in his first season at AC Milan should come as no surprise despite the former delivery man’s remarkable rise from amateur football to the Champions League.
As recently as 2019, Brazilian Messias was plying his trade in Italy’s third-tier Serie C, a past in local leagues and a former job shifting fridges not that far behind him.
However, after making his debut for Crotone in Serie B in the August of that year the 30-year-old’s star has risen quickly, an impressive debut Serie A season the following campaign leading to a dream move to seven-time European champions Milan.
Down-to-earth Messias, who emigrated to Italy in 2011, could well find himself playing a part for the visit of Liverpool on Tuesday as the Rossoneri try to make it to the last 16 of the Champions League for the first time since 2013.
“I try to think about working hard and to improve because when you’re at this level you need to get used to it,” Messias said to DAZN after scoring twice in last week’s 3-0 Serie A win at Genoa.
“I got used to it last year, playing for a decent team that unfortunately got relegated… it’s a bit different this year because I’ve found myself in a great team and a huge club –- that gives you an extra push.”
It’s down to Messias that Milan have a chance of making the knockout stages of Europe’s top club competition after he scored his first goal for the club at Atletico Madrid a fortnight ago.
His header three minutes from the end at the Wanda Metropolitano reignited a European campaign which looked dead after they picked up just one point from their first four matches.
Now Milan face Liverpool on Tuesday knowing a win against the already-qualified Reds could book them passage to the last 16.
Sitting third in Group B and a point behind Porto in second, they need to beat Jurgen Klopp’s group winners and hope Porto don’t beat Atletico Madrid.
It’s an unlikely but not impossible combination. Atletico can also make the knockouts if they beat Porto and Milan fail to get three points against what is likely to be a Liverpool side missing several leading players.
“Thank goodness we’re talking about this and the goal in Madrid because otherwise things would have been different,” said Messias.
“When I came here very few people wanted me but thankfully with hard work I’ve managed to show that I deserve to be here.
“It’s great to talk about my story but… enough people know about what I’ve done to be here, now I need to think about Milan and the season I’m having.”