Capturing Lionel Messi’s viral moment: The story behind the most liked photo on Instagram

On Sergio Aguero’s shoulders, Lionel Messi is holding the World Cup trophy aloft with both hands firmly clasped together.

The realisation of a lifetime desire after years of World Cup heartbreak is captured in a brief second as his eyes light up and a wide smile spreads across his face.

The image was taken by Getty photographer Shaun Botterill, who was in the audience for one of the most iconic moments in sports history, and was one that Messi chose to share to commemorate his World Cup victory over France. It is currently the most liked post in Instagram history, surpassing a simple brown egg.

Shaun Botterill/FIFA/Getty Images

Shaun Botterill/FIFA/Getty Images

According to Botterill, the photographers at Sunday’s World Cup final planned for one of them to go stand on the field in front of the billboards by the main stand, which housed the vast bulk of the Argentina fans in the Lusail Stadium, where there were advertising hoardings.

Following the trophy presentation, Messi spent some time with his family before making his way over to the crowd. This caused the photographers to rush to the goal at that end of the field.

According to Botterill, “I almost got trapped, but just got trapped in the correct position.” “If most of us [photographers] are being completely honest, you always need a little bit of luck, and I had a little bit of luck on Sunday night.

“Messi was just there and he didn’t move that much, sometimes you get pushed around, and he just was doing all the bits, one-handed, two hands on the trophy.

“We had no idea what was going to happen at the end. You can plan for the trophy lift, but you can’t plan for the run around and you don’t know how chaotic it’s going to be. I was pretty close to him, I’m probably like two meters away maximum.

“It is quite a weird feeling, it’s a bit surreal, you go: ‘Holy s**t,’ he’s right there where you want him to be and that doesn’t happen often.

“Even his hands coming up [with the trophy], I think the way he’s holding it and smiling, he’s definitely got a moment with the fans.”

In response, Botterill snatched a cable from one of the remote cameras behind the goal, plugged it into his camera, and sent the picture to his editors. Aguero is a former Argentina teammate of Messi who retired in December 2021 after being diagnosed with a cardiac arrhythmia.

By happenstance, Botterill’s son was that evening manning the editing station.

In a message, my oldest son told me, “I’ve modified your image dad, it’s a really great picture,” recounts Botterill.

The criticism from his kid has turned out to be rather understated.

Botterill “knew it was a pretty good picture” right away; modesty runs in the family. However, there is always a chance that another photographer at a slightly different angle would have taken a better picture because “small margins” can often make a significant difference.

The wider view, which provided more context and more accurately captured the adoration the Argentina captain was receiving, was the photographer’s preferred version of the image, the British photographer admits. Messi used the cropped version of the image on Instagram.

Instagram record

Botterill claims that because he doesn’t have a social media account, he was first totally unaware that his photo had become famous.

Mark Zuckerberg, the creator of Facebook, revealed on Wednesday that Messi’s Instagram post, which was preceded by Botterill’s photo, had surpassed all previous records for the number of likes received on the platform. It has more than 69 million likes as of this writing and is continuously growing.

The egg image that Messi’s post overtook as the record has 57 million likes as of 2019.

Because I don’t use Instagram, I wouldn’t even know how to crop an Instagram image, which is the amusing part, according to Botterill.

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