When Brazilian football fan Igor Magalhaes decided to have a huge image of Lionel Messi tattooed across his entire back in 2019, he could never have dreamt that one day the artwork would receive the seal of approval from the man himself.
Taking three full sessions to complete, the vast tattoo depicts Messi celebrating his late winning goal (also his 500th during his career) in a 3-2 victory against Real Madrid in 2017 — the Barcelona star holding his No.10 shirt aloft to a silenced Bernabeu crowd.
The enormous homage to Messi was heralded by Argentinian media this weekend after Magalhaes was spotted watching the Argentina national team train in Brasilia ahead of their 2021 Copa America group game against Paraguay in the Brazilian capital.
It soon featured on the Instagram account of broadcasters TyC Sports, where it was seen by over a million people in a few days.
Amazingly enough, this audience included Messi himself, who left a rare comment on the social media post.
“Terrible tattoo!” joked the Barca forward, before adding “I love it! I would like to see it and sign it.”
It’s at this point that the story takes an even more incredible turn as a meeting between Messi and Magalhaes was arranged to take place outside the Argentina team hotel in Brasilia this weekend.
Accompanied by the team’s head of security and brandishing a marker pen, Messi wandered over to the small group of fans, reached through the guard rail and added his signature to the body art, just as he promised he would.
¡SE VIENE LA FIRMA MÁS ESPERADA!
— TyC Sports (@TyCSports) June 21, 2021
While the meeting was brief, Magalhaes — who works as a military firefighter in his home country — is unlikely to forget his brush with Messi any time soon.
According to TyC Sports, the Brazilian was able to add Messi’s autograph to his back with another tattoo just a few hours later.
“Now I can die in peace,” he wrote on Instagram after sharing a photo of the amazing moment.
The post received hundreds of comments from envious football fans from around the world, most of whom agreed with the consensus that Magalhaes is one of the luckiest people in the world.
“I thought Messi was not going to stop,” the Brazilian told journalist Matias Pelliccioni. “I saw him, he looked at me and turned my back. I am happy forever, there are no more words to describe this. I want to say thank you very much to all the Argentine people.”
Curiously, this isn’t the first time that Messi has signed tattoos belonging to his devotees, having added a squiggle to several Barca supporters’ bodily shrines over the years.
As sporting mementos go, a full size tattoo of Messi’s handwritten autograph is certainly more enduring than a selfie — though far more painful.