Dani Olmo has fought his way to the top with RB Leipzig and Spain, after formative stints at the Barcelona academy and Dinamo Zagreb. - © DFL/Getty Images/Boris Streubel
Dani Olmo has fought his way to the top with RB Leipzig and Spain, after formative stints at the Barcelona academy and Dinamo Zagreb. - © DFL/Getty Images/Boris Streubel
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RB Leipzig's Dani Olmo on Julian Nagelsmann, Lionel Messi and Common Goal

Lionel Messi may not have been able to tear Dani Olmo away from his football, but his head was turned by RB Leipzig head coach Julian Nagelsmann...

In a piece for the Players' Tribune, Olmo discusses the joy of playing under Nagelsmann, his first encounter with Messi and his decision to sign up to the Common Goal initiative...

Dani Olmo on...

... working under Julian Nagelsmann...

"I started the next chapter of my project at RB Leipzig, where I’ve already experienced so many amazing things and been able to work with some of the best in the world, not least Julian Nagelsmann.

"The boss contacted me personally, before my transfer in January 2020. And I have to say he is the one who convinced me to come to Germany. He is an intense, sometimes peculiar guy, haha! But a very intelligent, passionate person, and a great communicator too.

"To be honest, I’m not even sure what the best adjective would be to describe him…. He is Nagelsmann. Pure intensity, pure emotion. It’s like … whatever comes to him, he lets it out. And the most important thing is that you know what he wants.

Olmo (l.) has registered six goals and 10 assists in 38 Bundesliga appearances for Julian Nagelsmann's (r.) Leipzig. - imago

"When he called, he told me how much he was counting on me and how he could help me grow and reach the next level in my career. No other club did that. It reminded me of Dinamo’s faith five years before, and I knew this was the right project.

"So far, I haven’t been wrong!"

Watch: Olmo's best performance in a Leipzig jersey?

... his first encounter with Lionel Messi

"One time, before I even joined La Masia, I accompanied my father while he was managing a game at Castelldefels.

"I was eight years old.I was playing happily by myself with a ball, when someone — I think it was a friend of my dad’s — came over and told me, 'Hey, Dani, come here! You’re not going to believe this. You’re going to have your picture taken with Lionel Messi!'

"Apparently, Messi had a friend playing in the Castelldefels game and had come down to see him.

"Wow, Messi, right? In Castelldefels? What kid wouldn’t want their picture with him?

"Well, me! I was like, 'No, thanks. I’m good. I want to keep playing! It’s just a picture, right?'

Olmo left Barcelona at 16, but has since become a fully fledged Spain international, earning 11 senior caps. - imago

"But, against my will, they stuck me next to Messi and took the picture. I didn’t even say anything to him. I just waited for the click and then I went back to my ball, like I was doing him a favour.

"In the end, I have to say I’m glad they forced me, because I’ve still got that picture framed at home. At the time though, I wasn’t happy to have my valuable playing time interrupted — even by an icon."

... joining the Common Goal initiative

"If you don’t already know about Common Goal, let me fill you in. I’m now one of the 160 footballers (along with coaches like my boss Julian Nageslmann) to have signed up to the project and pledged 1% of our annual salaries to help football NGOs around the world.

"Their work supports youth football programs in Africa, Asia, the Americas, Australasia and across Europe.

"My donation specifically supports a project run by an organisation in the Balkans called the Cross Cultures Projects Association, which helps the communities still dealing with the after-effects of war.

"Most importantly, the CCPA helps children in the region to have a right to a childhood and education, no matter their ethnicity or gender.

"In the end, it’s always kids who suffer the most from conflict. I want to help give them the opportunities I had and the dream to just follow the ball, wherever it takes them."

>> Read the whole piece on the Players' Tribune!