Former Manchester City star says Laporta hugged him ahead of a warm-up in 2009 when Ireland was a crucial player in the Premier League club.
Stephen once earne in a preseason-friendly the title of “Superman”
Stephen Ireland showed how he once became better of Lionel Messi in a preseason-friendly match and earned the title of “Superman” from Barca president Joan Laporta. Former Manchester City star says Laporta hugged him ahead of a warm-up in 2009 when Ireland was a crucial player in the Premier League club. Ireland held 176 matches for City between 2005 and 2010 after jumping from the club’s academy and then moved to Aston Villa. He also took spells for Stoke and Bolton’s likes during his career, although he had not played in the last match until his career ended in 2018. And this career could have gone much differently, according to Ireland, who believed that there was a chance to move to Barcelona around that preseason friendly.
It was cool o be there with Messi
“We played against Barcelona in the preseason, and I was the best player on the field by a country mile,” Ireland said. “Messi was playing. He made one of his crazy runs, and I thought: “I have to deal with him. I made this huge hook on him. There were four or five times when I read his passes and intercepted them. I went around him. I gave him the eyes and went the other way. It was cool, very cool to be there with him. In such cases, you are more vigilant, try harder. You run faster, see more. I remember on the bus to Camp Nou two players told me: “If you play well today, Barcelona will sign you. One of them was Javier Garrido, a Spanish boy.
Laporta grabbed Ireland and gave him a massive bear hug
“The other was Pablo Zabaleta. Now I think: “Was I that close? Was I so good? Did I admit that something like this could come true?” While playing against Barcelona was memorable for Ireland, the former midfielder added that preparing for that game was equally remarkable. Even before his preseason show, Ireland said that Laporta approached him after training, causing a little panic in Ireland. “The day before the game, we had a training session. And when we were coming up the tunnel, the president of Barcelona was there,” he said. “All the players were like this: “That’s him!”. He pushed everyone aside, grabbed me, and gave me a massive bear hug.”
“He hugged me with his hand, and I sweated so bad. I thought: “My God if he picks up on this, it will be so embarrassing. I was red in the face, drenched with sweat. Oh sh*t, how uncool did I look? And he began to speak everyone: “Hey, this guy is the man, this guy is number one. This guy is Superman!” Looking back, I feel that I was kind enough to stay at City for another six, seven, or eight years.”