ALEXIS MAC ALLISTER was too shy to strike up a conversation with Lionel Messi while on international duty.

Don’t be fooled by that. The easy-going 21-year-old has unshakable confidence in his own ability.

He hopes and probably expects to show why as he prepares to hit the Premier League.

It is 13 months now since Mac Allister first signed for Albion while with struggling Argentinos Juniors, who he immediately re-joined on loan.

He came across then as confident, smiling and engaging.

That has not changed. He has even more reason for self-belief after what has since happened, starring with mighty Boca Juniors, being called up by Argentina and leading the country’s under-23s to success in the Olympic qualifying tournament.

The next challenge is to make an impact in the Premier League for Albion.

Mac Allister is over in England with his dad Carlos, the former Boca and Argentina defender.

Dad made him mate with a portable kit on their visit to the training complex on Saturday.

He will not be staying for long but Mac Allister will not be lacking for support as he gets going with the Seagulls.

Nor will he be short of confidence. Even if it is very quiet confidence.

Mac Allister told The Argus: “If we are looking at the league position, coming to Brighton will be a bit more like when I was at Argentinos Juniors.

“But, if you ask me about a match between Brighton and Boca, I think it would be very competitive.

“I think I can settle into the game here. When I went to Boca, I always had faith in myself and I know what I can give.

“When I arrived at Boca, a lot of people, including people close to me, thought it would be difficult for me to play.

“I took a decision at that time which, from a football point of view, might not have been the best because Boca did not guarantee me playing very much.

“But I arrived, the coach trusted me and, fortunately, I played a lot of minutes which people didn’t expect.

“There were a lot of star players there – Tevez, Zarate, great players. They had a very competitive group.

“Those six months were short but I learnt a lot and gained a lot.”

Boca tended to use Mac Allister on the left, coming inside on to his lethal right foot.

His dad reckons Alexis could play as one of the two deeper lying midfielders in a 4-2-3-1.

But there seems little doubt over what his best role is.

Mac Allister junior said: “As a player, I have learnt about playing in different positions.

“At Boca I played a lot in a midfield role out to the left.

“That is a position where I can do well.

“But everybody knows that I feel most comfortable playing in behind a No.9.”

Mac Allister lived life in the goldfish bowl back in Buenos Aires as he became one of the main men for Boca.

He said: “It’s a bit difficult to go out of the house. The fans are very attentive to the players.

“But I’m a calm boy. I always tried to be close to home, tried to rest, tried to watch football. I didn’t really have a problem “Every now and then, you would go out with the family to eat or with my girlfriend but the people treated me well and I thank them for that.

“There might be less of that attention in Brighton but it doesn’t worry me.

“I tend to stay at home drinking mate and watching football.”

Mac Allister was the main man in his most recent assignment as he led Argentina under-23s to success in the Olympic qualifying tournament.

It was during that event in Colombia that it become clear he would not be going back to Buenos Aires, other than to say his goodbyes.

Leading his side in that 23s tournament was another part of the maturing process as a player and person.

The Argus: Alexis Mac Allister in a line up with MessiAlexis Mac Allister in a line up with Messi

He said: “The national team is something which is very important in my career.

“I love it when I’m there. I’ve also been in the senior squad.

“But the under-23s was my first official tournament playing for Argentina.

“It was very important, a brilliant experience that I always wanted to have.

“Thanks to God, we won it, which was very important. My expectation is to always be part of the national team, whether it is juniors or now seniors.

“Now we have the Copa America and the Olympics ahead.

“I’ll try to keep working well here so the coaches choose me.”

Mac Allister has kept a close eye on Albion over the last 13 months.

He said: “I have seen quite a few Brighton matches and I think the team have improved a lot in terms of trying to play football.

“It’s a different style of football. A few young players have come in.

“They haven’t had the results after a good start to the season but the football is better.”

Asked whether he was worried by the league position, he replied: “Not at all. When you see how the team is playing, you feel less worried.

“For now the results haven’t followed but, playing like this, we will have a good chance of being well-placed in the league.

“I enjoy watching and studying the matches and thinking about myself in that team.

“I’m sure it will be a little bit more difficult for me because I will have to adapt. Adapt, for example to the tempo.

“But I have my mind set on what I can do and with an open mind in terms of learning.

“I have come to learn and to bring my little grain of sand for the team doing well.”

He also comes as a team-mate of the very best having featured in a senior squad with Messi.

That was another eye-opener.

He said: “With the senior squad, there was a big difference between playing in the league and the national team.

“I was so pleased to be around these players and they treated me very well.”

Asked how he got on with Messi, he said: “We spoke a bit. I’m quite a shy person and he is too.

“It was the first time I’d seen him and he was quite quiet. He was very calm.

“We crossed paths and swapped a few words but very little.”