‘Called me Messi’ – James Troisi reveals his Newcastle United nickname during his wonderkid days

Australian teenage sensation Garang Kuol is edging closer to joining Premier League side Newcastle United, but he won’t be the first wonderkid from Down Under to join the famous club.

Socceroos veteran James Troisi was nicknamed ‘Messi’ after Argentine legend Lionel during a four-year stint at St James Park between 2004 and 2008.

Troisi moved to Newcastle United’s academy from Adelaide City as a 16-year-old and honed his talents on Tyneside before departing for Turkey’s Genclerbirligi at 20 without making a senior appearance in England.

But while he was with the black-and-white, Troisi was given a special nickname at training by the likes of Michael Owen, Nicky Butt and Shay Given, with the talented Aussie sharing a similar haircut and position to Messi.

“They used to call me Messi,” Troisi told ChronicleLive.

“I was far, far from it but that was something special for me because you’ve got all those players calling you it.

“I had long hair as well so it was a nice feeling because you get chewed up and chucked out straight away if you can’t mix it with those boys.

“If you can’t handle it, you’re out of there, but there were quite a few of them who took me under their wing.”

Troisi, now 34 years old, is plying his trade with A-League Men champions Western United in the upcoming season and has enjoyed a distinctive career across Europe and Asia.

Among his 35 caps for the Australian national team includes five goals, with one of them sealing the Socceroos’ victory in the 2015 AFC Asian Cup final.

Troisi was close to first team football at Newcastle United, featuring on the bench in a UEFA Cup match in 2006 and assisting two goals in 2007 pre-season.

But ultimately the playmaker wasn’t able to force himself into the first team ahead of the likes of Charles N’Zogbia, James Milner, Alan Smith and Damien Duff and Newcastle boss Kevin Keegan was frank about his future.

“I can speak about it now, but I couldn’t really speak about it then,” Troisi said. “Kevin Keegan was pretty open with me.

“He had not been there for long and said, ‘You’ve been at the club for some time now and have ability, but I need more time with you. It’s up to you. A contract is here for you but, at the same time, if you choose to go, we will say that we will release you and your future club does not have to pay a training compensation fee.’

“It was a nice gesture from him to do that for me because I ended up going for free and he didn’t have to do that. It was something that doesn’t usually happen.”

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