Lionel Messi: Barcelona and Argentina superstar’s cousin shows the less glamorous side of South American football

Maxi Biancucchi dreamed of starring for Newell’s Old Boys as a kid just like his relative, but their careers took very different paths

Aside from Lionel Messi’s incomparable talents on the pitch, one of the truly unique traits that marks him out is his loyalty to Barcelona. The Argentine has played at the club ever since he arrived in Spain as a pint-sized wonderkid at 13, the Blaugrana stepping in to pay for the hormone treatments Newell’s Old Boys could no longer cover as his home nation was steeped in economic crisis.

While he may yet opt to finish his career where it all began in Newell’s, the contract extension signed by Messi at the start of the summer underlined his intention to continue pulling on the Barca shirt for the foreseeable future. His commitment is laudable, of course, but also a two-way street.

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The vast majority of footballers, especially those from Argentina and South America, have no choice but to move on every two seasons or so. In a continent where player turnover is part and parcel of the game, so is a relentless treadmill of new contracts, presentations and unfamiliar cities in which to call home. One need only look to Messi’s very own family for a glimpse of what the realities of football are for those not quite blessed with the same world-beating ability.

Maxi Biancucchi, cousin of La Pulga and two years his senior, also put pen to paper on a fresh deal this summer. The diminutive forward, who like Messi grew up in Rosario and dreamed of starring for his beloved Newell’s when he made professional, signed with little-known Paraguayan side Rubio Nu, his 13th professional club in as many years and eighth in Paraguay alone.

By all accounts Biancucchi has had a successful career in the game, complete with a handful of titles and a brief stint as an idol of continental big-hitters Flamengo. But his journeyman football life is also one of constant movement, contracts of 12 months and the…

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