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Old photos of Lamine Yamal and Lionel Messi herald football stardom

Hang these in the Louvre or maybe the Prado.

Last week, photos of 20-year-old Lionel Messi with his baby Lamine Yamal came to the fore again when Yamal’s father, Mounir Nasraoui, shared a photo on Instagram with the caption “El comienzo de dos leyendas” (The beginning of two legends).

On Tuesday, Yamal, now a 16-year-old forward for the Spanish men’s national soccer team, became the youngest player to score in a European Championship when he fired a left-footed shot from 25 yards out, over goalkeeper Mike Maignan’s diving range, in Spain’s 2-1 win over France in the semifinals in Munich. A few hours later, Messi, now 37 and in the final stages of his remarkable career, sent World Cup champions Argentina into the Copa América final with a goal in a 2-0 win over Canada at the MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.

But what about the photographs of Messi holding and bathing baby Lamine, long before it was known that the baby would follow in Messi’s footsteps and become a Barcelona-bred soccer star? They appeared in a calendar in the fall of 2007 as part of an annual charity campaign organized by a local Catalan newspaper and were taken by Joan Monfort, a freelance photographer for the Associated Press.

“We made the calendar with the help of UNICEF,” Monfort, 56, told the AP. “So UNICEF organized a raffle in the Roca Fonda neighborhood of Mataró, where Lamine’s family lives. They signed up to have their picture taken with a Barca player at Camp Nou. And they won the raffle.”

The photos were taken in the visitors’ dressing room at Barcelona’s Camp Nou stadium and feature various Barcelona players paired with different dolls. Messi, who would go on to become the best player of his generation, is in his fourth season with Barcelona’s first team and is an established star, but Monfort said working with him for the shoot was a challenge.

“Messi is a very introverted guy, very shy,” Monfort told the AP. “He was coming out of the locker room and suddenly he found himself in another locker room with a plastic tub full of water and a baby in it. It was complicated. At first he didn’t even know how to hold it.”

Yamal, who, like Messi, came through Barcelona’s La Masia youth academy, made his debut for the club last year and became the youngest player to score in the Spanish league. He has made 37 league appearances this season, scoring five goals for Barcelona. Messi became the youngest Argentine player to score in a World Cup match when he was about to turn 19 in 2006, and two years ago he led his country to its first World Cup title since 1986. The eight-time Ballon d’Or winner is in the middle of his second season with Inter Miami of Major League Soccer.

Spain plays England in the European Championship final in Berlin on Sunday, a day after Yamal’s 17th birthday. Argentina will face the winner of Wednesday’s match between Uruguay and Colombia on Sunday in Miami Gardens, Fla. If both countries lift the trophy, Yamal and Messi could take another photo together.

“It’s very exciting to be associated with something that’s caused such a sensation,” Monfort said of the photos that went viral this week. “It’s a beautiful feeling, to be honest.”

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