A Priceless Surprise for Messi & A Team of Leos

Lionel Messi has inspired an entire generation of fans with his impeccable play on the pitch, and he's even inspired tens of thousands of parents to name their children in his honour. Now, he surprises a group of young fans, but little does he know that they have a surprise in store for him as well.

Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi has been in the spotlight since he burst onto the football scene in 2004, and after his masterful performance in winning his first FIFA World Cup in 2022 and the UEFA Champions League four times, he's become even more of an influential global figure. With his exhilarating play and impeccable leadership on the pitch, the Argentinean athlete and Mastercard Brand Ambassador has inspired a new generation to pursue their passion with determination and dedication, whether it's football or another lifelong dream.



So, imagine how exciting it was for a group of young football fans when Lionel Messi surprised them in person. That's just what took place when the 2022 FIFA World Cup Golden Ball winner appeared to hand out the latest iteration of Player Mascot jerseys to the awe-struck youngsters. The new uniforms, designed by Camera Moda and VISION OF SUPER, feature shirts and shorts made from recycled fabrics, which use 90% less water and 70% less energy than virgin polyester and have a 65% smaller carbon footprint. They'll be worn at all remaining UEFA Champions League matches.


But the surprises didn't end there, as Messi received an unforgettable revelation himself when he learned that every single one of the children was named "Leo" in his honour. The parents explained that Messi has had an extraordinary impact on their lives and they wanted to name their children something inspirational, making Leo the perfect moniker.




While that's certainly remarkable, in recent years, the name Leo skyrocketed in popularity for children across the world. In fact, Mastercard analysed two decades' worth of Office of National Statistics data and found that 77,000 children in England and Wales have been named some variation of Leo since 2004 when Messi began his playing career. Not only that, but the name has risen from the 57th most popular boys' name in 2003 to the sixth most popular today.


One of the greatest things about Messi is that his love for the game is evident every time he plays, especially in the UEFA Champions League. "Walking onto the pitch before a UEFA Champions League match is a unique experience," Messi says. "No matter how many times I do it, it never gets old. I am always so happy to share that feeling with the young mascots and only hope that the experience gives them the belief, in themselves, in the beautiful game, and in the power of chasing their dreams."


To spread the joy to even more football fans, whether they're named Leo or otherwise, Mastercard is thrilled to present a new AR filter on Instagram that will allow everyone experience the excitement of being close to Lionel Messi. See the link here to engage with it on social and be sure to tag @Mastercard and @LeoMessi in your photos!