AC Milan’s Junior Messias marked a new milestone in his incredible story to the top by scoring his first-ever goal for the club on his Champions League debut to keep the Italians in the chase for the knockout stages.
Messias, 30, swooped in the 87th minute to give the Rossoneri a 1-0 victory over Atletico Madrid at the Wanda Metropolitano on Wednesday.
It is a remarkable change in fortunes for the Brazilian, who just a few years ago was playing at amateur level and holding down other jobs such as refrigerator delivery man.
Watch Messias’ winning goal for AC Milan (UK & US)
A cool customer
The forward, who as recently as two years ago was still playing at amateur level in Italy, entered Wednesday’s game in the 64th minute with Milan desperate for a goal to avoid elimination from this year’s Champions League.
Twenty minutes later he proved the hero, steering a towering header past Jan Oblak to clinch a 1-0 victory which leaves AC Milan level with Atletico on four points, one shy of Porto in the second last-16 qualifying spot behind group winners Liverpool.
“I am very happy with the performance and the victory, it means we are still alive, but there’s a lot of work still to be done,” Messias told Amazon Prime Video Italia.
“It was all instinct, I just followed the move and kept calm as the ball came my way. When you are calm, you can do great things.
“What happened is the most important moment of my career, but humility is still so important. I mustn’t get downbeat with criticism, nor elated by compliments.
“I dedicate this goal to my family and all those who believed in me.”
Messias, who is on loan from Crotone, had only made two appearances for the Rossoneri prior to his heroic intervention and the culmination of a stunning rise from refrigerator deliveryman to Champions League saviour.
The bigger picture
The former Cruzeiro youth player moved to Italy to look for work in 2011 and secured employment running deliveries for an appliance store in Turin.
His only link with football was in an amateur division, where he formed part of a team alongside Peruvian nationals resident in Turin.
Messias’ talents did not remain a secret, and he was soon approached by ex-Torino star Ezio Rossi to join fifth-tier side Casale – only to turn down the chance as it would have affected his work schedule.
Rossi was nevertheless insistent and the player eventually relented, thus beginning a climb up the Italian pyramid which culminated in Crotone’s promotion from Serie B in 2019-20 and his entry into the top flight.
Crotone lasted just a single season in Serie A, but with nine goals in 36 games Messias did enough to convince Milan to take him on a one-year loan, which includes an option to buy at the end of 2020-21.