Soccer: Is Lionel Messi Playing in Norway Now?

Lionel Messi is one of the best soccer players in his — or any — generation. He famously plays for Barcelona. Messi hasn’t been playing recently as he recovers from a calf injury, but Messi has been spotted playing soccer in Norway — or, at least, a Lionel Messi has been spotted playing in Norway. Is it the famous Messi or an impostor? Here’s the story.

A Lionel Messi wannabe

Daniel Are Knutsen is a 16-year-old soccer player who has always idolized the 32-year-old Messi, so he decided to do something to honor his soccer idol. What better way to honor Messi than for Knutsen to change his own name to Lionel Messi? So that’s exactly what he did. 

The younger Messi said that he has “had a plan to change my name for a while, and Lionel Messi is my biggest idol. With my dedication to football, it was nothing more than to try … as best I can to play his way. It’s possible to see some similarities, but my talent probably isn’t as great.” 

Junkeren, a third-tier club from Norway signed the younger Messi, hoping his skill level was similar to that of the legendary Argentine.

The real Messi’s career

It’ll be hard for the younger Messi to live up to the original Messi’s career. He has spent his entire career with Barcelona, winning a club-record 34 trophies. That number includes 10 La Liga titles, four UEFA Champions League titles, and six Copa del Rey trophies. Some of the records he holds include most goals in La Liga, most goals in a season in La Liga and the European league, most UEFA Champions League hat tricks, and most La Liga assists. 

The original Lionel Messi has also scored nearly 700 goals to date in his senior career. Messi led Argentina to the championship at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, where he earned the Golden Ball as the tournament’s best player. He won three consecutive FIFA Ballons d’Or beginning in 2009, and he has won five FIFA Player of the Year awards to date.

Success translates to fame and fortune

Messi’s current contract with Barcelona, which runs through 2020-21, pays him more than $80 million annually. As of July, Forbes estimates that Messi  made $127 million in 2019. 

As with any famous athlete, Messi also has several endorsement deals. Among the brands he promotes are Gatorade, Mastercard, and Pepsi, but perhaps his most unique endorsement deal is with Adidas. The athletic apparel company has signed Messi to a lifetime endorsement deal. That contract, announced in 2017, reportedly pays Messi more than $10 million a year. Time magazine included Messi on its Most Influential People lists in both 2011 and 2012, joining such luminaries as former President Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Pope Francis, and Warren Buffet as people who have appeared on the list multiple times.

Can the younger Messi duplicate the older Messi’s success?

Lionel Messi plays in Norway now? Well, sort of.
Lionel Messi plays in Norway now? Well, sort of. | Eric Alonso/MB Media/Getty Images

It would be hard for any soccer player to match the success Messi has had since he first joined Barcelona in 2003, let alone a specific person like the younger Lionel Messi. But there’s no reason he should aspire to be as successful as the real Messi, despite taking on the legendary athlete’s name.

If the 16-year-old can play professionally and have a career that is even half as good as Messi’s, that would still likely make him one of the most successful athletes in the sport’s history. Messi has done so much so well in soccer that he may eventually go down in the record books as the best soccer player in the history of the sport.