THE closest Rhys Healey had got to Lionel Messi and Neymar was playing them on Fifa.
But the English striker is preparing for a season against the Paris Saint-Germain superstars after firing Toulouse to promotion into the top-flight of French football.
Rhys Healey is in dreamland after helping Toulouse return to the French top-flightCredit: Getty
Lionel Messi and Neymar could be lying in wait for Rhys Healey next seasonCredit: Reuters
The former Cardiff and MK Dons ace, 27, has savoured the best season of his career and is top scorer in Ligue 2 with 20 goals.
Toulouse, who play at one of the Euro 2016 venues, ended their two-year stay outside Ligue 1 with a 2-0 win over Niort.
Healey said: “The chance of facing big players like Messi was so far away when I was a kid and now it is so close.
“I played with these players on Fifa and now could have the chance to be on the same pitch with them and play at places like the Parc des Princes and Marseille. It is incredible.
“It was great to get promotion on Monday. I cannot explain it, to be honest.
“The beers were flowing, there was dancing and singing. Also, there was a lot of relief as we lost in the play-off final a year ago.”
Healey started his career at Connah’s Quay Nomads in Wales but moved to Cardiff in 2013.
Despite having six years at the club, he spent most of the time away on loan with spells at Colchester, Dundee, Newport and Torquay before making a switch to MK Dons permanent.
He took the plunge and headed to south-west France in the summer of 2020 in a £1million deal.
Healey said: “The move came out of the blue. I was a bit scared at the time as I did not know much about French football and Toulouse.
“I made the right choice. It is a beautiful city, a big city. When I joined it was difficult with the Covid situation and it is great to have now played in a full stadium.
“The language has been difficult but I do understand more than I speak.
“I have had some nice messages from England, including my old manager at MK Dons, Russell Martin, who is such a good man-manager.
“MK was definitely the stepping stone for me.”
Healey, who has one year left on his current deal, will miss the final three games of the season with a groin injury but still hopes to win the golden boot.
Toulouse lost 1-0 to Rodez on Monday but can seal the title with a win over Nimes on Saturday.
Healey said: “Last season, I got 15 goals so this season I have bettered it with 20 in the League while I also got two in the cup.
“I am hoping to win the golden boot. The second top scorer has 16 but he is a penalty taker while I have not had one penalty.
“Otherwise, I would be on about 28. But it would be a great achievement to finish the season as the top scorer in the League, something I have never done before.
“I picked up an injury in the last game but I cannot be too disappointed. It has been a great season for me.”