The story behind photos of Lionel Messi and baby Lamine Yamal

'The stars align!': Photographer recalls viral Messi-Yamal photos (1:31)

Joan Monfort recalls when he photographed Lionel Messi holding Lamine Yamal as a baby. (1:31)

Lamine Yamal firmly established himself as Euro 2024's golden boy after lighting up the semifinals with a spectacular goal for Spain in their 2-1 victory over France.

The 16-year-old winger also became the youngest goal scorer in Euros history in the process. The Barcelona youth product found the net just four days shy of his 17th birthday to beat the previous record, held by Switzerland's Johan Vonlanthen since 2004, by more than a year.

However, it would appear that a literal brush with greatness as a child might well have helped propel Yamal on his mercurial rise after a batch of brilliant photos of the Barcelona starlet as a baby resurfaced online recently.

The photos show Yamal as an infant being bathed by none other than Lionel Messi, who was 20 at the time and just beginning his own ascent to greatness. A crop of one of the photos was posted on Instagram by Yamal's father, Mounir Nasraoui, along with the caption: "The beginning of two legends."

The photos were taken by Joan Monfort, a freelance photographer who shot a series of images of various Barca players posing with children and their families as part of a charity calendar organised by Catalan newspaper Diario Sport in conjunction with UNICEF.

"We made the calendar with the help of UNICEF," Monfort told The Associated Press. "So UNICEF did a raffle in the neighborhood of Roca Fonda in Mataró, where Lamine's family lived. They signed up for the raffle to have their picture taken at the Camp Nou with a Barça player. And they won the raffle."

Yamal and his mother, Sheila Ebana, were joined by Messi in the away team locker room at Camp Nou in the fall of 2007. Little did anybody involved realise that a footballing torch may have also been passed at the same time, despite the awkward atmosphere.

"The stars aligned when Lamine met Messi, but it was very difficult," Monfort told The Associated Press. "Messi is very introverted and shy. He entered the changing room to find a plastic bathtub filled with water and a baby inside. In the beginning he did not know how to hold [Yamal]."

The pair may well look back and laugh about their odd first meeting when next they meet, especially if Yamal wins the European Championship with Spain this summer while Messi spearheads Argentina to the Copa América crown.

Monfort, 56, said he is delighted to have one of his photographs make such an impact so many years after it was taken.

"It's very exciting to be associated with something that has caused such a sensation," he said. "To tell you the truth, it's a very nice feeling."