Lionel Messi is an Argentine former professional footballer counted amongst the best players in the world in football history. The only player in history to win five FIFA Ballons d'Or, he was also the first player to win three European Golden Shoes. During his playing career he shattered many world records and currently holds the records for most goals scored in La Liga, a La Liga season (50), a calendar year (91), a single season (73), and a Champions League match (5), among several others. Born into a football-loving family in central Argentina, he developed a passion for the sport at an early age and spent his childhood playing football with his brothers. He joined the youth team of Newell’s Old Boys as a young boy and began playing for FC Barcelona’s under-14 team when he was 13. Having made his competitive debut as a 17 year old, Messi quickly established himself as an integral player for the Barcelona club. His first big success came in the 2008–09 season, during which he helped Barcelona achieve the first treble in Spanish football. Over the ensuing years he proceeded to establish himself as Barcelona's all-time top scorer in official competitions and is also Argentina's all-time leading goalscorer with 55 goals in 112 matches. He retired in 2016 following Argentina's loss to Chile in the Copa América Centenario final. But, soon a campaign began to urge him to change his mind and Messi later on reversed his decision.
Childhood & Early Years
- Lionel Messi was born to Jorge Messi and Celia Cuccittini in Rosario, Santa Fe Province. He has three siblings, two elder brothers Rodrigo and Matias, and a sister, Maria Sol. His father was a factory steel worker and his mother was employed as a part-time cleaner.
- At the age of five, Messi started playing for the Grandoli, a local club coached by his father. By the time he turned eight, he was playing for Newell’s Old Boys. The group was immensely talented, which is visible from the fact that they lost just a single match in the next four years. It was their sheer interest and talent for the game that made the group popularly known as ‘The Machine of '87’
- Unfortunately, Messi was diagnosed with a growth hormone deficiency when he was eleven. Despite being immensely talented, he was not offered help by the local clubs, who were not willing to pay for his treatment.
- It was at this juncture that Carles Rexach, the sporting director of FC Barcelona, came to his aid. He promised to offer help to Messi by paying for his medical bills only if the latter moved to Spain. Messi was enrolled at the Barcelona’s youth academy.
- Messi’s career kickstarted in the year 2000 when he played for the junior system ranks. Within a short span, he became the only player to play for five different teams.
- His excellence at the game was visible from the fact that Messi quickly moved through the junior system ranks to make a league debut on October 16, 2004 against RCD Espanyol.
- His first goal came the following year on May 1, 2005 against Albacete. He created history by being the youngest to ever score in a La Liga game for Barcelona.
- He received Spanish citizenship in September 2005, which finally made it possible for Messi to make a debut in the Championship League.
- Messi’s first outing at the Champions League was against Italian club Udinese. Though he entered the field as a substitute, he played amazing soccer with Ronaldinho, the two sharing good chemistry over passing and receiving the ball.
- Out of his 17 league appearances, Messi managed to strike six goals. However, a muscle tear in his right thigh led to his premature exit from the league, which Barcelona eventually won as champions of Spain and Europe.
- In the 2006-07 season, Messi was no longer the substitute. He found himself listed in the eleven-member squad. In the 26 outings, he successfully netted the ball fourteen times. He even scored a hat-trick in El Clasico, thus becoming the youngest player ever to have scored in this fixture.
- Messi’s action for scoring the goals was way too similar to Maradona’s, which resulted in him being labelled as ‘Messidona’. For a particular goal, he ran about the same distance, 62 metres (203 ft), beat the same number of players (six, including the goalkeeper), scored from a very similar position, and ran towards the corner flag just as Maradona did in 1986 World Cup match against England in 1986 .
- February 27, 2007 saw Messi play his 100th match for Barcelona against Valencia CF. in the Champions League, Messi scored 6 goals and provided 1 assist before his premature exit due to muscle tear. It was the fourth time in three seasons that Messi suffered this type of injury. Overall in the season, Messi had managed to score 16 goals and assisted 13 times in all competitions.
- 2009 was a successful year for Messi as he not only won his first Copa del Rey, but helped his team win La Liga and finally the Champions League. With three victories by their side in a single year, Barcelona became the first ever Spanish club to win the treble. Messi scored a hat-trick quite a couple of times. He ended the season with an overall 38 goals and 18 assists record.
- Before the year end, Barcelona had recorded another win at the 2009 Club World Cup beating Estudiantes, thus totalling their title won in the year to six.
- 2010 was a year of hat-trick for Messi as he scored against CD Tenerife, Valencia CF, Real Zaragoza, thus becoming the first Barcelona player to score back-to-back hat-tricks in La Liga. In a match against Arsenal, Messi went on to score four goals. The year ended with Messi scoring 47 goals and 11 assists in all competitions.
- In the 2010 Copa del Rey final, Barcelona faced their arch rivals Real Madrid. Though the defending champions lost their game to Real Madrid, Messi was however the joint top-scorer of the tournament along with Cristiano Ronaldo, with 7 goals.
- As for the Champion’s League, Barcelona beat Real Madrid 2-0 in the Semi finals, with Messi scoring both the goals. In the finals too Messi scored the winning goal to give Barcelona their third title in six years and fourth overall. Messi finished the 2010–11 season with 53 goals and 24 assists in all competitions combined.
- 2011-12 season was a mirror image of the earlier seasons for Messi as he broke records after records to emerge as the top class player for Barcelona and the world at large. He became the second highest goalscorer surpassing Laszlo Kubala on 194 goals in all official competitions. Additionally, he became second in Barcelona's La Liga goalscorers list with 132 goals. He became the leading goalscorer for Barcelona in all official competitions, surpassing the legendary Cesar Rodriguez.
- While hat-tricks and quadruples had become common for Messi, history was created when he scored five goals in a match against Bayer Leverkusen, which Barcelona won by 7-1. With this, he became the first player to score five goals in an UEFA Champions League match.
- While Barcelona successfully defended their Copa del Rey title, they were defeated by Chelsea in the semi-finals of UEFA Champions League and were also unable to get hold on to the La Liga title.
- Messi, on the other hand, had by far the best year or season in his career till then as he became the top goalscorer in La Liga for a second time, with a Liga record of 50 goals. He was the second best assist provider in La Liga that season with 16 assists, after Mesut Ozil, who managed 17. He also ended the season as the UEFA Champions' League Top Scorer for a fourth consecutive time, with 14 goals. He was one of the top assist providers of the tournament with 5 assists and finished the season with 73 goals and 29 assists in all club competitions, with more goals and assists than any other player in the history of the game.
- In 2012, Messi’s goal count rested at 91 for the calendar year which was the highest ever, surpassing Gerd Muller’s 85 goal haul. The supremely outstanding performance of Messi led to Barcelona renewing its contract with this ace footballer until the year 2018.
- In the March of 2013, Messi scored for the 19th consecutive La Liga game, thus becoming the first footballer in history to score in consecutive matches against every team in the league.
- Following this, Messi appeared in match against Paris Saint-Germain and later against Atletico Madrid. However, he left both of them mid-way due to suffering from hamstring problem. As a result of his injury, it is anticipated that Messi could miss all the matches for the rest of the season.
- His persistent injuries posed a threat to his career but he bounced back in 2014, and had a good start to the 2014–15 season. By the end of the year, he had successfully broken three longstanding records. He scored a hat-trick against Sevilla in November which made him the all-time top scorer in La Liga.
- He had an amazing start in the 2015 season. He gave a scintillating performance along with team mates Luis Suárez, and Neymar to score a total of 122 goals in all competitions that season, a record in Spanish football. Messi himself scored 58 of the 122 goals.
- Continuing his streak of success in 2016, Messi scored two goals and assisted the other two in a 4–1 derby win over Espanyol at the Camp Nou in the first leg of the Round of 16 of the 2015–16 Copa del Rey in January 2016. In February the same year, he reached his 300th league goal in a 1–3 away win against Sporting Gijon.
- He scored his 500th senior career goal for club and country on 17 April 2016 in Barcelona's 2–1 home loss to Valencia. In the 2015-16 season, he scored a total of 41 goals and provided 23 assists.
- He announced his retirement from international football following Argentina’s loss to Chile in the final of Copa América Centenario on 26 June 2016.
- Following his retirement, a campaign began to urge Messi to change his decision. On 12 August 2016, it was announced that Messi has reversed his decision to retire and will be part of Argentina's 2018 World Cup campaign.
- Messi established the Leo Messi Foundation, a charity supporting access to education and health care for vulnerable children in 2007. This was in response to Messi’s own medical ailments that he faced as a child. The foundation works towards providing children diagnosed with illnesses treatment in Spain funds covering the transport, hospital and recuperation costs. Most of the funds collected by the organization is through Messi’s own effort with a little aid by Herbalife.
- Messi was the goodwill ambassador for UNICEF in 2010. He worked towards supporting children’s rights
- In 2013, Messi donated a sum of €600,000 for the restoration of a children's hospital by the name Victor J Vilela Children's Hospital, in his hometown of Rosario, Argentina. The donated amount was basically used in restoring the oncology unit of the hospital and paying for doctors to travel to Barcelona for training.
Awards & Achievements
- Messi’s excellence at the field has been lauded by the world over through the numerous awards, honors and achievements that he has been bestowed with. Messi has won the prestigious Ballon d'Or five times. He has won it in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2015.
- Messi has on a number of occasions won awards in the young player of the year category. Some of them are World Soccer Young Player of the Year, FIFPro World Young Player of the Year and Copa America Young Player of the Tournament.
- Messi has in his kitty 20 Player of the Year awards including FIFA World Player of the Year (1), World Soccer Player of the Year (3), Goal.com Player of the Year (2), UEFA Best Player in Europe Award (1), UEFA Club Footballer of the Year (1), FIFA U-20 World Cup Player of the Tournament (1), La Liga Player of the Year (3), La Liga Foreign Player of the Year (3) and La Liga Ibero-American Player of the Year (5).
- For his knack of netting the ball to the goal, Messi has been awarded as the top goalscorer on numerous occasions. Some of them include IFFHS World's best Top Division Goal Scorer, IFFHS World's Top Goal Scorer, UEFA Champions League Top Goalscorer, FIFA U-20 World Cup Top Goalscorer and Copa del Rey Top Goalscorer.
- Messi was honoured with the European Golden Shoe thrice in 2010, 2011 and 2012. He won the FIFA Club World Cup Golden Ball twice in 2009 and 2011. He was tagged as the European Golden Boy in the year 2005.
- He was part of the Argentine football national team that won the gold medal in the 2008 Summer Olympics.
Personal Life & Legacy
- Messi has had quite a couple of romantic associations before he got steady with his wife Antonella Roccuzzo. He was first linked with Macarena Lemos, a female from his hometown Rosario, whom Messi was introduced to by the former’s father while he was recovering from his injury before the 2006 World Cup. He is even said to have shared a love bond with Argentine glamour model Luciana Salazar.
- Messi was first seen with his wife Roccuzzo at a carnival in Sitges after the Barcelona-Espanyol derby. A fellow native of Rosario, Roccuzzo gave birth to their first child, Thiago on November 2, 2012 and second child Mateo, on September 11, 2015.
- After several years of being in a relationship with Roccuzzo, he married her on 30 June 2017. Their wedding was held at a luxury hotel named Hotel City Center in Rosario.
- Lionel Messi has an estimated net worth of $180 million.
- His first ever contract was not on any official stamp paper or a bond paper. Instead, Carles Rexach, the sporting director of FC Barcelona, offered him to play for the club in a contract written on paper napkin! Rexach was so impressed that he wanted to make a contract then and there.
- He was offered to play for Spain’s U-20 team at the international level but he ruled out the offer due to his Argentinian heritage and later took up a place at the Argentina’s U-20 team.
- Ever since his league debut for Barcelona in 2004, he has, through his excellence at the game and complete know-how of the technique, created numerous records. Currently, he is Barcelona’s top scorer in La Liga, UEFA Champions League, European competitions and international competitions. He has also the most number of hat-tricks scored by any Barcelona player.
- He holds the Guinness World Records of most number of goals in a calendar year: 91 goals. Additionally, he is the only world player to score in 19 consecutive league matches, his goal count for the same being 30.
- He has a style that is similar to Maradona. On two occasions, in the 2006-07 seasons, he replicated Maradona’s goal style with perfection. Over the years, his actions have shown the same character as that of Maradona, who himself declared this talented footballer as his successor.
Top 10 Facts You Did Not Know About Lionel Messi
- Although Lionel Messi has Spanish citizenship, he is of Italian origin. His paternal family is from the Italian city of Ancona in the Marche region.
- He shares the same birthplace, Rosario, with the Argentine revolutionary, Che Guevara.
- Despite his fame, he still maintains close connections with the people of Rosario, his hometown. He is also the international ambassador of Rosario.
- Messi has his own version of the Hand of God goal. On 4 October 2006 in a match against Recreativo de Huelva, he scored a goal with his hand.
- ‘SportsPro’ has cited him as one of the world's most marketable athletes every year since 2010.
- One of the world's highest-paid footballers, he was the first player to exceed the €40 million benchmark.
- He has his mother’s face tattooed on his left shoulder.
- He is the only player with four FIFA Ballon d'Or awards and three European Golden Shoe awards. Additionally, he won the Golden Ball award twice and the European Golden Boy award once.
- Messi holds the record for the most hat-tricks scored (four in total) in Champions League.
- He is known for his excessive love for food and his favourite dish is escalope Milanese.