Argentina defeated Australia on Saturday with a final score of 2-1, eliminating Australia from the World Cup as Argentina moves forward to the quarterfinals. The team’s success is thanks in part to 22-year-old attacker Julián Álvarez, who has scored two goals during the tournament.

However, before he was helping Messi lead Argentina to victory, he was just a fan.

As Argentina moves to the quarterfinals, fans are reminding us of a 2011 photo showing a then-11-year-old Álvarez posing next to Messi. Now, he’s fighting for victory alongside the man who inspired him to play in the first place.

Before Julián Álvarez was a player, he was just another fan

Álvarez made his professional debut with River Plate in 2018 at just 18 years old. The player has, since then, built a sturdy reputation as one of the best new players in the world. Earlier this year, he scored six of eight total goals in a landslide victory against Alianza Lima. Soon after, he debuted with Manchester City as part of the Premier League.

However, when all of that was still in Álvarez’s distant future, he was first and foremost a diehard fan. So much so that he has multiple pictures with popular Argentine players, including Messi and Ángel di María. Not only that, a brief interview with the young Álvarez shows the player talking about his dreams of playing in a World Cup.

Messi and Martínez seem to work well together

As teammates, Messi and Álvarez seem to be getting along quite well. Another picture that has fans excited shows the dynamic duo practicing together with the same kind of chemistry they’ve displayed on the field. The two of them seem to have a symbiotic relationship and bounce off of each other with ease.

Some have even taken to calling Álvarez, in addition to his nickname Spider, Messi’s new sidekick. It’s hard to argue that designation after seeing how Messi and Álvarez interact with each other as players and teammates. With many speculating about Messi’s retirement following this year’s World Cup, Álvarez is emerging as a possible protégé.

According to ABC News, Álvarez has called his experience “a huge joy.” He went on to say, “I always try to give my best to help from wherever I play. On the field or being on the bench cheering on my teammates. We are going to go down this path to continue making Argentines happy.”

Lautaro Martínez’s role moving forward

The most interesting thing about Álvarez’s meteoric rise? It wasn’t really supposed to happen.

In fact, Álvarez’s streak with Argentina started on accident, after he subbed in for starting center forward Lautaro Martínez. After missing two chances to score against Australia, Álvarez took his place on the field and used his only opportunity to successfully score one of Argentina’s two goals throughout the game.

Martínez’s performance was so disappointing, fans have speculated whether he’ll continue playing with the Argentine team. His less-then-stellar performance almost cost Argentina its victory. With Álvarez successfully picking up the slack, some are wondering what future Martínez has with the team.

Thankfully, Martínez was able to salvage some of his reputation by saving Argentina from a draw in the game’s final moments. Martínez blocked a last-second attempt to score by Australia and secured Argentina’s place in the quarterfinals.

Coach Lionel Scaloni dismissed the rumors about Martínez’s dismissal, saying, “Lautaro has helped us many times so I wouldn’t like to go into detail about that. That would be unfair to Lautaro. He will keep on helping us and making us happy.”

Regardless, Argentina has secured its spot in the quarterfinals thanks to a team of newbies and veterans alike. Whether they have it in them to go the distance remains to be seen. But a lot of fans are hopeful.