Lionel Andrés Messi
(born 24 June 1987) is an Argentine footballer who
currently plays for La Liga team Barcelona and the Argentine national team.
Messi is considered to be one of the best football players of his generation,
having received several Ballon d'Or and FIFA World Player of the Year
nominations by the age of 21.
His playing style and ability have drawn comparisons to football legend Diego
Maradona, who himself declared Messi his "successor".
Messi Training in 2009
Messi began playing football at a young age and his potential was quickly
identified by Barcelona. He left Rosario-based Newell's Old Boys's youth team in
2000 and moved with his family to Europe, as Barcelona offered treatment for his
growth hormone deficiency. Making his debut in the 2004–05 season, he broke the
La Liga record for the youngest footballer to play a league game, and also the
youngest to score a league goal.
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Major honours soon followed as Barcelona won La Liga in Messi's debut season,
and won a double of the league and UEFA Champions League in 2006. His
breakthrough season was in 2006–07: he became a first team regular, scoring a
hat-trick in El Clásico and finishing with 14 goals in 26 league games. Perhaps
his most successful season was the 2008–09 season, in which Messi scored 38
goals to play an integral part in a treble winning campaign.
Messi was the top scorer with six goals, including two in the final game of
the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship. Shortly thereafter, he became an
established member of Argentina's senior international team. In 2006 he became
the youngest Argentine to play in the FIFA World Cup and he won a runners-up
medal at the Copa América tournament the following year. In 2008, in Beijing, he
won his first international honour, an Olympic gold medal, with the Argentina
Olympic football team.
Messi was born on 24 June 1987 in Rosario, Argentina, to parents Jorge Messi,
a factory worker, and Celia (née Cuccitini), a part-time cleaner.
His paternal family originates from the Italian city of Ancona where his
ancestor, Angelo Messi, emigrated to Argentina in 1883.
He has two older brothers named Rodrigo and Matías as well as a sister named
Maria Sol. At the age of five,
Messi started playing football for Grandoli, a local club coached by his father
Jorge. In 1995,
Messi switched to Newell's Old Boys who were based in his home city Rosario.
At the age of 11, he was diagnosed with a growth hormone deficiency.
Primera División club River Plate showed interest in Messi's progress, but did
not have enough money to pay for the treatment, as it cost $900 a month.
Carles Rexach, the sporting director of Barcelona, had been made aware of his
talent as Messi had relatives in Catalonia, and Messi and his father were able
to arrange a trial.
Barcelona signed him after watching him play,
offering to pay for the medical bills if he was willing to move to Spain.
His family moved to Europe and he started in the club's youth teams.
Messi made his unofficial debut for the first team in a friendly match
against Porto on 16 November 2003 (at 16 years and 145 days).
Less than a year later, he made his league debut against Espanyol on 16 October
2004 (at 17 years and 114 days), becoming the third-youngest player ever to play
for Barcelona and youngest club player who played in La Liga (a record broken by
team mate Bojan Krkić in September 2007).
When he scored his first senior goal for the club against Albacete on 1 May
2005, Messi was 17 years, 10 months and 7 days old, becoming the youngest to
ever score in a La Liga game for Barcelona
until 2007 when Bojan Krkić broke this record, scoring from a Messi assist.
"Messi I think is like me, he is the best in the world along with
On 16 September, for the second time in three months, Barcelona announced an
update to Messi's contract – this time improved to pay him as a first team
member and extended until June 2014.
Messi obtained Spanish citizenship on 26 September
and was finally able to make his debut in the season's Spanish First Division.
Messi's first home outing in the UEFA Champions League came on 27 September
against Italian club Udinese.
Fans at Barcelona's stadium, the Camp Nou, gave Messi a standing ovation upon
his substitution, as his composure on the ball and passing combinations with
Ronaldinho had paid dividends for Barcelona.
Messi netted six goals in seventeen league appearances, and scored one
Champions League goal in six. His season ended prematurely on 7 March 2006,
however, when he suffered a muscle tear in his right thigh during the second leg
of the second round Champions League tie against Chelsea.
Barcelona ended the season as champions of Spain and Europe.
In the 2006–07 season, Messi established himself as a regular first team
player, scoring 14 times in 26 matches.
On 12 November, in the game against Real Zaragoza, Messi suffered a broken
metatarsal, ruling him out for three months.
Messi recuperated from his injury in Argentina, and his return to action came
against Racing Santander on 11 February,
where he came on as a second-half substitute. On 11 March, El Clásico saw
Messi in top form, scoring a hat-trick to earn 10-man Barcelona a 3–3 draw,
equalising three times, with the final equaliser coming in injury time.
In doing so he became the first player since Iván Zamorano (for Real Madrid in
the 1994–95 season) to score a hat-trick in El Clásico.
Messi is also the youngest player ever to have scored in this fixture (scheduled
match). Towards the end of the season he began finding the net more often; 11 of
his 14 league goals for the season came from the last 13 games.
Messi also proved the "new Maradona" tag was not all hype, by
near-replicating Maradona's most famous goals in the space of the single season.
On 18 April 2007, he scored two goals during a Copa del Rey semi-final against
Getafe, one of which was very similar to Maradona's famous goal against England
at the 1986 FIFA World Cup in Mexico, known as the Goal of the Century.
The world's sports press drew comparisons with Maradona, and the Spanish press
labelled Messi as "Messidona".
He ran about the same distance, 62 metres (200 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 Mexico 21 years before.
In a press conference after the game, Messi's team-mate Deco said: "It was the
best goal I have ever seen in my life."
Against Espanyol Messi also scored a goal which was remarkably similar to
Maradona's goal against England in the World Cup quarter-finals. Messi launched
himself at the ball and connected with his hand to guide the ball past the
goalkeeper Carlos Kameni.
Despite protests by Espanyol players and replays showing it was clear handball,
the goal stood.
During the 2007–08 season, Messi scored five goals in a week leading
Barcelona to the top four in La Liga. On 19 September he scored once as
Barcelona defeated Olympique Lyonnais 3–0 at home in a Champions League match.
He scored two goals against Sevilla on 22 September
and then on 26 September, Messi scored another two goals in a 4–1 victory over
Real Zaragoza. On 27 February,
Messi played in his 100th official match for Barça against Valencia.
He was nominated for a FIFPro World XI Player Award under the category of
Forward. A poll conducted in
the online edition of the Spanish newspaper Marca had him as the best
player in the world with 77 percent of the vote.
Columnists from Barcelona-based newspapers El Mundo Deportivo and
Sport stated that the Ballon d'Or should be given to Messi, a view supported
by Franz Beckenbauer. Football
personalities such as Francesco Totti have declared that they consider Messi to
be one of the current best footballers in the world.
Messi was sidelined for six weeks following an injury on 4 March when he
suffered a muscle tear in his left thigh during a Champions League match against
Celtic. It was the fourth time in three seasons that Messi suffered this type of
Upon Ronaldinho's departure from the club, Messi inherited his number 10
jersey. On 1 October 2008,
during a Champions League match against Shakhtar Donetsk, Messi scored two goals
during the last seven minutes, after coming on as a substitute for Thierry
Henry, to turn the score from 1–0 to a 1–2 victory for Barcelona.
The next league game was versus Atlético Madrid, a match billed as a friendly
battle between Messi and his good friend Sergio Agüero.
Messi scored a goal from a free kick and assisted another as Barça went on to
win the match 6–1. Messi
netted another impressive brace against Sevilla scoring a volley from 23 metres
(25 yd) and then dribbling round the goalkeeper and scoring from a tight angle
for the other. On 13 December
2008, during the first Clásico of the season, Messi scored the second goal in
Barcelona's 2–0 win over Real Madrid.
He was also named second in the 2008 FIFA World Player of the Year awards with
Messi scored his first hat-trick of 2009 in a Copa del Rey tie against
Atlético Madrid which Barcelona won 3–1.
Messi scored another important double on 1 February 2009, coming on as a second
half substitute to help Barcelona defeat Racing Santander 1–2 after being 1–0
down. The second of the two strikes was Barcelona's 5000th league goal.
In the 28th round of La Liga, Messi scored his 30th goal of the season in all
competitions, helping his team to a 6–0 victory over Málaga CF in the process.
On 8 April 2009, he scored twice against Bayern Munich in the Champions' League,
setting a personal record of nine goals in the competition.
On 18 April, Messi notched his 20th league goal of the season in a 1–0 win at
Getafe, allowing Barcelona to maintain their six point advantage at the top of
the league table over Real Madrid.
As Barcelona's season was drawing to a close, Messi scored twice (his 35th
and 36th goals in all competitions) to cap a 6–2 win over Real Madrid at the
Santiago Bernabéu in what was
Real's heaviest defeat since 1930.
After scoring each goal, he ran towards the fans and the cameras lifting up his
Barcelona jersey and showing another T-shirt that read Síndrome X Fràgil,
Catalan for Fragile X Syndrome, to show his support for children who suffer from
the affliction. Messi was
involved in the build-up to Andrés Iniesta's injury time goal against Chelsea in
the Champions League semi-final to send Barcelona through to face Manchester
United in the final. He won his first Copa del Rey on 13 May, scoring one goal
and assisting another two, in a 4–1 victory over Athletic Bilbao.
He helped his team win the double by winning La Liga. On 27 May he helped
Barcelona win the 2009 UEFA Champions League Final by scoring a second goal in
the 70th minute giving Barcelona a two goal lead; he also became the top scorer
in the Champions League with nine goals.
Messi also won the UEFA Club Forward of the Year: and the UEFA Club Footballer
of the Year rounding off a spectacular year in Europe.
This victory meant Barcelona had won the Copa del Rey, La Liga and UEFA
Champions League in the one season,
and was the first time a Spanish club had ever won the treble.
After winning the 2009 UEFA Super Cup, Barcelona manager Josep Guardiola
asserted that Messi was probably the best player he had ever seen.
On 18 September, Messi signed a new contract with Barcelona, running until
2016 and with a buy-out clause of €250 million included, making Messi the
highest paid player in La Liga, with earnings of around €9.5 million yearly.
Four days later, on 22 September, Messi scored two goals and assisted another in
Barça's 4–1 win over Racing Santander in La Liga.
Messi scored his first European goal of the season on 29 September in a 2–0 win
over Dynamo Kyiv. Messi took
his goal tally to six goals in seven games in La Liga with a strike during a 6–1
rout over Real Zaragoza at Camp Nou,
and also scored a penalty in Barça's 4–2 win over Mallorca at the Camp Nou on 7
November. On 1 December 2009,
Messi was named winner of the 2009 Ballon d'Or, beating runner-up Cristiano
Ronaldo by a huge margin of 473 to 233.
Afterwards, France Football magazine quoted Messi as saying: "I dedicate it to
my family. They were always present when I needed them and sometimes felt even
stronger emotions than me." On
19 December, Messi scored the winner in the final of the 2009 FIFA Club World
Cup against Estudiantes in Abu Dhabi.
Two days later, he was given the FIFA World Player of the Year award; beating
Cristiano Ronaldo, Xavi, Kaká and Andrés Iniesta to the award. This was the
first time he had won the award, and he became the first Argentinean to ever
receive this honour. On 10
January 2010, Messi scored his first hat-trick in 2010 and his first hat-trick
of the season against CD Tenerife in the 0-5 victory.
On 17 January 2010, Messi scored his 100th goal for the club in the 4-0 victory
over Sevilla FC.
In June 2004, he debuted for Argentina, playing in an under-20 friendly match
against Paraguay. In 2005 he
was part of a team that won the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship in the
Netherlands. There, he won the Golden Ball and the Golden Shoe.
He made his full international debut on 17 August 2005 against Hungary at 18
years of age. He was substituted on during the 63rd minute, but was sent off on
the 65th minute because the referee, Markus Merk, found he had elbowed defender
Vilmos Vanczák, who was tugging Messi's shirt. The decision was contentious and
Maradona even claimed the decision was pre-meditated.
Messi returned to the team on 3 September in Argentina's 1–0 World Cup qualifier
away defeat to Paraguay. Ahead of the match he had said "This is a re-debut. The
first one was a bit short." He
then started his first game for Argentina against Peru; after the match Pekerman
described Messi as "a jewel".
On 28 March 2009, in a World Cup Qualifier against Venezuela, Messi wore the
Argentine number 10 jersey for the first time. This match was the first official
match for Diego Maradona as the Argentina coach. Argentina won the match 4–0
with Lionel Messi opening the scoring.
2006 FIFA World Cup
The injury that kept Messi from playing for two months at the end of the
2005–06 season jeopardised his presence in the World Cup. Nevertheless, Messi
was selected in the Argentina squad for the tournament on 15 May 2006. He also
played in the final match before the World Cup against the Argentine U-20 team
for 15 minutes and a friendly match against Angola from the 64th minute.
He witnessed Argentina's opening match victory against Ivory Coast from the
substitute's bench. In the
next match against Serbia, Messi became the youngest player to represent
Argentina at a World Cup when he came on as a substitute for Maxi Rodríguez in
the 74th minute. He assisted Hernán Crespo's goal within minutes of entering the
game and also scored the final goal in the 6–0 victory, making him the youngest
scorer in the tournament and the sixth youngest goalscorer in the history of the
World Cup. Messi started in
Argentina's following 0–0 tie against the Netherlands.
In the following game against Mexico, Messi came on as a substitute in the 84th
minute, with the score tied at 1–1. He appeared to score a goal, but it was
with Argentina needing a late goal in extra time to proceed. Coach José Pekerman
left Messi on the bench during the quarter-final match against Germany, which
they lost 4–2 on a penalty shootout.
2007 Copa América
Messi played his first game in the Copa América 2007 on 29 June 2007, when
Argentina defeated United States 4–1 in the first game. In this game, he showed
his capabilities as a playmaker. He set up a goal for fellow striker Hernán
Crespo and had numerous shots on target. Tevez came on as a substitute for Messi
in the 79th minute and scored minutes later.
His second game was against Colombia, in which he won a penalty that Crespo
converted to tie the game at 1–1. He also played a part in Argentina's second
goal as he was fouled outside the box, which allowed Juan Roman Riquelme to
score from a freekick, and increase Argentina's lead to 3–1. The final score of
the game was 4–2 in Argentina's favor and guaranteed them a spot in the
In the third game, against Paraguay the coach rested Messi having already
qualified for the quarter-finals. He came off the bench in place of Esteban
Cambiasso in the 64th minute, with the score at 0–0. In the 79th minute he
created a goal for Javier Mascherano.
In the quarter-finals, as Argentina faced Peru, Messi scored the second goal of
the game, from a Riquelme pass in a 4–0 win.
During the semi-final match against Mexico, Messi scored a lob over Oswaldo
Sánchez to see Argentina through to the final with a 3–0 win.
Argentina went on to lose 3–0 to Brazil in the final.
2008 Summer Olympics
Having barred Messi from playing for Argentina in the 2008 Olympics,
Barcelona agreed to release him after he held talks with Josep Guardiola.
He joined the Argentina squad and scored the first goal in a 2–1 victory over
He then scored the opening goal and assisted Ángel Di María in the second to
help his side to a 2–1 extra-time win against the Netherlands.
He also featured in Argentina's match against rivals Brazil, in which Argentina
took a 3–0 victory, thus advancing to the final.
In the gold medal match, Messi again assisted Di María for the only goal in a
1–0 victory over Nigeria.
Messi was at one stage romantically linked to Macarena Lemos, also from his
hometown of Rosario. He is said to have been introduced to her by the girl's
father when he returned to Rosario to recover from his injury a few days before
the start of the 2006 World Cup.
He has in the past also been linked to the Argentine model, Luciana Salazar.
In January 2009 he told "Hat Trick Barça", a programme on Canal 33: "I have a
girlfriend and she is living in Argentina, I am relaxed and happy".
He was seen with the girl, Antonella Roccuzzo,
at a carnival in Sitges after the Barcelona-Espanyol derby. Roccuzzo is a fellow
native of Rosario. They plan
to wed near the end of 2010.
He is featured on the front cover of the video game Pro Evolution Soccer 2009
and is also involved in promotional campaigns for the game.
Messi, along with Fernando Torres,
is the face of Pro Evolution Soccer 2010, and was also involved in the motion
capturing and the trailer.
Messi is sponsored by the German sportswear company Adidas and features in their
He has two cousins in football; Maxi and Emanuel Biancucchi.
- Spanish League (3): 2004–05, 2005–06, 2008–09
- Spanish Cup: (1) 2008–09
- Spanish Supercup (3): 2005, 2006, 2009
- UEFA Champions League (2): 2005–06, 2008–09
- UEFA Super Cup (1): 2009
- FIFA Club World Cup (1): 2009
- FIFA U-20 World Cup: 2005
- Olympic Gold Medal: 2008
- FIFA U-20 World Cup Top Scorer: 2005
- FIFA U-20 World Cup Player of the Tournament: 2005
- Copa América Young Player of the Tournament: 2007
- U-21 European Footballer of the Year: 2007
- Player of the Year of Argentina: 2005, 2007, 2009
- FIFPro Special Young Player of the Year: 2006–2007,
- FIFPro World Young Player of the Year: 2005–2006, 2006–2007,
- World Soccer Young Player of the Year: 2005–2006, 2006–2007,
- Premio Don Balón (Best Foreign Player in La Liga):
- EFE Trophy (Best Ibero-American Player in La Liga):
- FIFPro World XI: 2006–2007, 2007–2008, 2008–2009
- UEFA Team of the Year: 2007–2008
- FIFA Team of the Year: 2008, 2009
- UEFA Champions League Top Scorer: 2008–2009
- Trofeo Alfredo Di Stéfano: 2008–2009
- UEFA Club Forward of the Year: 2008–2009
- UEFA Club Footballer of the Year: 2008–2009
- LFP Best Player: 2008–2009
- LFP Best Striker: 2008–2009
- Onze d'Or: 2009
- Ballon d'Or: 2009
- World Soccer Player of the Year: 2009
- FIFA Club World Cup Golden Ball: 2009
- Toyota Award: 2009
- FIFA World Player of the Year: 2009
- FIFPro World Player of the Year: 2008–09