Rangers were also in for Messi’s team-mate Andres Iniesta according to former Ibrox boss Alex McLeish

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Lionel Messi may have won 10 La Liga titles in his time at Barcelona, but when his career ends he will have accumulated three fewer Scottish Premier League winner’s medals than Kirk Broadfoot.

It could all have been so different had he taken the opportunity to join Rangers as a youngster.

That unlikely scenario was briefly a possibility back in 2004, when Messi was targeted by the Ibrox club.

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The forward, who has scored 648 goals in 753 games for Barcelona, was lined up as a replacement for Barry Ferguson after the midfielder left Glasgow for Blackburn Rovers.

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Fellow Barca legend Andres Iniesta, who currently plays for Japanese side Vissel Kobe, was also the subject of interest from the Scottish club.

Alex McLeish reflected on the ones that got away while speaking to Graham Hunter on his The Big Interview podcast.

McLeish, who won two league titles in his time as Rangers manager, said: “My son Jon was into Championship Manager.

“He was constantly giving me names in South America. They come out the sky and say ‘Lionel Messi is going to be the best player in the world’.

“You dismiss it but Rangers were downsizing and we were looking for some quality in midfield.

“Barry Ferguson had gone down to Blackburn so we lost a guy who would have taken the ball in any stadium anywhere in the world. We needed players of that ilk again.

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“Jan Wouters phoned Henk ten Cate, who was the assistant of Frank Rijkaard, the ex-Dutch international.

“Jan phoned him and said: ‘Messi?’ We were told no chance’.

[Ten Cate] said ‘We’ve got a young kid, Iniesta, he’s a phenomenal player’, only 18 or 19.

We said ‘Can he come to Scotland?’

“They said ‘Yep, I’ll try and make hay at Barcelona and get him over to you. He needs to get some action’.

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“By the Monday, Iniesta was called into the team and he played a stormer.

“Ten Cate came back and Jan asked him ‘What about the wee man? Are we getting him?’”

“Ten Cate sighed and said we had no chance.”

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