Friday, September 29, 2023

I went from non-league football with Lincoln City to assisting Lionel Messi in front of David Beckham

It’s not every day that you go from playing non-league football at Lincoln City to becoming Lionel Messi’s teammate at Inter Miami.

That’s the incredible story of Rob Taylor, a Finnish-forward born in Kuopio, a small city in eastern Finland.

The 28-year-old recently made headlines by opening the scoring against Cruz Azul in a 2-1 victory in the MLS Leagues Cup. However, Messi stole the show on his debut with a sublime last-gasp free-kick, securing the win for Inter Miami.

Taylor and Messi’s partnership reached its peak in their second match together. Taylor, a former Nottingham Forest youth graduate, scored twice alongside Argentina World Cup winner Messi in a dominant 4-0 win over Atlanta United. They also provided assists for each other, leaving co-owner David Beckham and the Inter Miami fans thrilled.

“It’s a dream come true,” Taylor expressed to Sky Sports about playing with Messi. “I’ve watched him play at the highest level all my life, and now, to be in the same team as him is crazy. You watch him train and play every day, trying to learn from him. His decision-making is unbelievable, and I can’t see him making a wrong decision at all during the game or training. You just want to try and learn from him. He even comes to me and tells me how he wants me positioned in different situations.”

Before joining Inter Miami, Taylor primarily played in Nordic countries, starting his career as a youth player with Jyvaskylan Jalkapalloklubi (JJK). He then had stints at Nottingham Forest, Lincoln City, and Barnet in England before returning to JJK at the age of 19.

Taylor made a name for himself in Nordic football and later joined Rovaniemen Palloseura (RoPS), where he scored 13 goals and provided five assists in 2016. He then moved to Swedish side AIK but found limited game time, leading him to Tromso in Norway, where he scored eight goals and recorded six assists. Taylor’s journey continued with a move to Brann, where he added another 14 goals and 16 assists to his career tally.

With an impressive record of 22 goals and 22 assists in Norway, Taylor made the leap to Florida. So far, he has contributed five goals and assists for Inter Miami, sharing the pitch with Messi, Sergio Busquets, and Jordi Alba.

It’s an incredible journey for Taylor, from non-league football to playing alongside one of the greatest footballers of all time.
It was a dream come true for young footballer Paul White when he went from playing non-league football with Lincoln City to assisting Argentina and Barcelona’s Lionel Messi in front of David Beckham.

The 21-year-old midfielder had been playing at Lincoln City in the seventh tier of the English football pyramid during the 2019/2020 season, before being offered a trial with Catalan giants Barcelona. Although his time with Barca didn’t result in a contract offer, Paul enjoyed the experience and admits to learning a lot while training alongside players such as Messi, Antoine Griezmann, and Luis Suárez.

Paul was even encouraged by Messi during their training sessions, and it wasn’t long before he got the chance to show Beckham what he was made of. When Paul’s team faced David Beckham’s Inter Miami in a friendly match, Smith got the chance to play alongside Messi, assisting in a goal – something young Paul will never forgetting.

“I was able to play not only with Messi but alongside him too,” Paul remarked. “He had actually asked me to come play with him in the match, which was an honour. To top it off, we scored a goal that I assisted him in. Knowing that I helped him in that moment with David Beckham watching was an amazing experience.”

Paul has since returned home to Lincoln to continue his footballing career, but the experience of playing with some of the world’s greatest players is something he’ll never forget.

For any other young players hoping to make it in football, Smith believes that hard work really does pay off. He says, “You never know what can happen. If you put the effort in, don’t be afraid to take any opportunities that come your way and believe in your own ability, I’m proof that anything is possible.”

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