Socceroos rookie Cameron Devlin explains how he got Lionel Messi to hand him the priceless jersey from his 1,000th game – and what he did with it when he got home
Young Socceroos squad member Cameron Devlin did not play a single minute at the Qatar FIFA World Cup, yet he managed to come home with one of the greatest prizes of all – Lionel Messi’s match-worn jersey.
Australia punched well above its weight at the World Cup to jag two crucial group stage wins – including a 1-0 win over world No.10 Denmark – to qualify for the knockout rounds.
There, the Socceroos met the might of Argentina and were brave in defeat to bow out on a high.
After the match, many of the young Socceroos took the time to have their photo taken with Messi who is arguably the greatest player on the planet with a record six Ballon d’Or awards.
While many of the Socceroos will treasure the moment they were able to shake the hand of the Argentinian great and take home a photo as a souvenir, Devlin explained how he managed to jag his jersey, despite not playing any games in Qatar.
‘I went on [the pitch] and consoled all the boys first and then shook Messi’s hand,’ Devlin said.
‘No-one had said anything so I just tried my luck and he said, ‘I’ll see you inside,’ and that’s what happened.
‘I definitely wanted one of the other boys to have the opportunity first, but no-one took it, so I thought why not?’
Devlin and Messi shake hands and swap jerseys in Qatar following Argentina’s 2-1 win over the Socceroos
Showing the measure of the man, Messi also gratefully accepted Devlin’s jersey despite the fact he probably had no idea who he even was.
‘I don’t know if it will be on his wall at home or maybe still on the ground in that changing room but I’m not fussed — it’s more that I got his,’ Devlin said.
‘I was surprised he even took mine.
‘He definitely wouldn’t know who I am, but he’s a nice enough bloke and a humble enough bloke to still show that respect, and that’s obviously super nice, but I wasn’t too worried about what my jersey was doing at that stage.’
Now that Devlin is back at home for a short break in Sydney before returning to duty for Heart of Midlothian in Scotland he has revealed the treasured jersey will remain here in Australia.
‘The jersey is going to be at my home and my dad has got it,’ Devlin said.
‘I don’t think he’ll let me touch it anymore,’ he said.
Melbourne City A-League star Marco Tilio gets his photo taken with the GOAT Lionel Messi
Young Socceroos squad members Keanu Baccus and Joel King took the chance to get a photo with their idol Lionel Messi
Some supporters were critical of the players ‘fanboying’ over Messi after the match, but Socceroos great Robbie Slater said they had every right to take advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
He also revealed he did the same thing with Argentina great Diego Maradona back in the day.
‘I’ve always said he’s a smart fella, that Cameron Devlin,’ Slater joked on the Fox Football Podcast.
‘You can feel sad and still seize an opportunity that maybe you’re never gonna ever have again.
Messi shreds the Socceroos defence to lead his side to a 2-1 win in the knockout stage of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar
‘I have no problem. I’d be a hypocrite to say that (they shouldn’t have done it). I went into bleeding Argentina’s dressing rooms in ’93 to get Maradona’s jersey. I have no problem with that. Some of those players will never be in that position ever again.
‘How often do you play Messi? Once – that’s probably it. If you’re lucky.
‘It was the same for me back in my day with Maradona. You’re talking about the greatest player in the planet. If you can go and get his shirt? I tip my hat – well done son.’