Lionel Messi, perhaps the world’s most famous footballer, had to be escorted to a police station after stunned fans in Iran spotted him on the streets of the western city of Hamedan.
However, all was not as it seemed: it was not the Argentinian ace but in fact his doppelganger, 25-year-old student Reza Parastesh.
Parastesh, who had gone out wearing a Barcelona shirt, caused such a commotion that police even considered charging him with a public order offence, AFP reported.
His resemblance to the Barcelona 10 has not just left fellow Iranians fooled – Eurosport UK recently posted a photo of him on Twitter to illustrate a tweet about Messi.
“I’m really happy that seeing me makes them happy and this happiness gives me a lot of energy,” Parastesh told AFP.
A few months ago he was persuaded by his football-loving father to send some selfies to a sports website because his likeness to Messi is so uncanny.
It was a prescient move. Parasteshis now inundated with offers for modelling and media appearances and has begun to wear his hair and beard in the perfectly crafted Messi mould.
“I sent them one night and by the morning they had called me and said I should come in quickly for an interview,” he said.
“Now people really see me as the Iranian Messi and want me to mimic everything he does. When I show up somewhere, people are really shocked,” he added.
Despite convincing his son to make the most of his Messi-like features, Parastesh’s father has not always been completely happy to see them.
After the Argentinian scored a late goal against Iran in a 2014 World Cup match, knocking the Middle Eastern nation out of the competition, he told his son in no uncertain terms that he was not welcome back.
“After the game, my dad called me and said don’t come back home tonight… why did you score a goal against Iran? ” said the younger Parastesh, who reportedly protested: “But that wasn’t me!”
Now the young man looks set to cash in on his striking similarity to one of the world’s most famous faces and he is relishing the prospect.
“Being the best player in footballing history, he definitely has more work than he can handle. I could be his representative when he is too busy,” he said.
Messi's Iranian lookalike Reza Parastesh. He was taken to nearby police-station after causing chaos in city of Hamaden. pic.twitter.com/RON9l5L0Xz
— CampNouHQ (@CampNouHQ) May 9, 2017