Lionel Andrés Messi is an Argentine footballer who plays as a forward for Spanish club FC Barcelona and the Argentina national team.Argentina native Lionel Messi has established records for goals scored and won individual awards en route to worldwide recognition as the best player in soccer.
His paternal family originates from the Italian city of Ancona, from which his ancestor, Angelo Messi, emigrated to Argentina in 1883.
Lionel Messi was born, 24 June 1987, in Rosario, Argentina to a working class family. His father was a factory steel worker, and his mother a cleaner.
As a young boy, he tagged along when his two older brothers played soccer with their friends, unintimidated by the bigger boys. 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’
At the age of 8, he was recruited to join the youth system of Newell's Old Boys, a Rosario-based club. Recognizably smaller than most of the kids in his age group, at the age of 11, Messi was diagnosed with growth hormone deficiency (GHD). This was a condition that stunted growth, and required expensive medical treatment, including the use of the drug Human growth hormone.
Local club, River Plate were interested in signing Messi, but didn’t want to pay for his medical treatment. However, Messi was given a trial with Barcelona, and coach Carles Rexach was impressed – offering Messi a contract (written on paper napkin!) which included paying for Messi’s treatment in Spain. Messi moved to Barcelona with his father and became part of the prestigious FC Barcelona youth academy.
Lionel joined Barcelona’s U-14 squad and became the best player on the team. As he learned the nuances of the game, he moved rapidly through the organization, joining the C team and then the B team before earning a spot with the club's A team. Lionel made his debut for FC Barcelona in a non-league game against FC Porto in November of 2003. He was six months past his 16th birthday.
The following spring, he made his international debut for Argentina, playing in an Under-20 match against Paraguay.
Lionel played in his first Spanish League game with Barcelona in mid-October of 2004. He started the season as a reserve-squad player but saw more and more time as injuries felled key teammates on the big club. His first goal came the following spring in a game against Albacete Balompié.
Early in the 2005–06 season, Barcelona extended Lionel’s contract to 2014. He obtained Spanish citizenship 10 days later. This was crucial, as Lionel still hadn’t appeared in a Spanish First Division match. The club had reached is quota of non-EU players and needed Lionel to have native status so as not to cut a key overseas star.
Lionel’s first test came in a September UEFA Champions League tilt with Italy’s Udinese. The Barcelona fans gave him a standing ovation when he entered the game as a sub, and he rewarded them by working several magical combinations with the team’s star, Ronaldinho. During the year, he made several jaw-dropping plays, saving his best for Barcelona’s toughest European opponents, including Juventus and Chelsea.
Lionel went on to score six goals in 17 Spanish League games. He added another goal in six Champions League matches. His season ended early after he tore a thigh muscle in a game against Chelsea. He watched from the sidelines as a stacked Barcelona squad soldiered on and won both the Spanish and European championships.
His first full game came in the big match—dubbed “El Clasico”—with Real Madrid. In a contest that featured non-stop action, Madrid scored three times, but Lionel answered each goal with one of his own, recording a hat trick in a wild 3–3 tie that saw his club play a man down. At 18, he was the youngest Barcelona player ever to score in this ancient grudge match.
Lionel kept getting better and better. He finished the season with 14 goals; 11 came in his final 13 games. In a Copa del Rey match against Getafe, Lionel did a spot-on imitation of Maradona’s great World Cup goal against England in 1986. He started just inside his defensive half, beat two Getafe defenders at midfield with quick dribbling, sped straight down the field with the ball, made two more defenders miss tackles at the top of the penalty box, maneuvered past the goalkeeper and lifted the ball from an angle into the goal.
Spanish newspapers called him “Messidona” after that. Ironically, in a game against Espanyol, Lionel reproduced Maradona’s other famous goal against the Brits, when he leaped for a header and the ball ticked off his hand and went in the net.
Barcelona went on to win the Copa del Rey, the annual competition between Spanish football clubs. Messi was the headliner in the 4–1 final won over Athletic Bilbao with a goal and an assist. It ended an 11-year drought for Barcelona. Barca also won La Liga in 2009.
Lionel was at his best in 2009 UEFA Champions League competition, leading Barcelona into the final against Manchester United with eight goals. He netted his ninth against ManU, sealing a 2–0 victory after Samuel Eto'o opened the scoring for Barcelona. Lionel scored on one of his patented perfectly placed headers—a rare weapon for a man his size.
Lionel was one of five finalists for the FIFA World Player of the Year award. The others were Cristiano Ronaldo, Xavi, Kaka and Andres Iniesta. When he took home the hardward, he became the first Argentine to win the award.
As the 2009–10 season unfolded, Lionel went on a historic scoring spree for Barcelona. During one week, he netted eight goals. In March, he became the first player in club history to score back-to-back hat tricks in league games. In April, he had his first four-goal game, fueling a victory over Arsenal in a Champions League quarterfinal match. In that contest, he surpassed Rivaldo as the top career scorer in Champions League competition. He finished the year with 34 goals in La Liga play, matching the club record set in 1997 by Brazilian star Ronaldo. He was named the Spanish League’s top player for the second season in a row.
With his remarkable performance during 2009 and 2010, Lionel has established his reputation as one of soccer’s premiere players of all time. His intense desire to win, coupled with his incredible ability to take over a game, has made him the game’s biggest star—even if he stands only 5-6.
Amazingly, the diminutive soccer wizard continued to improve, discovering new ways to elude defenders while leading Barcelona to La Liga and Spanish Super Cup championships in 2010 and 2011, as well as the '11 Champions League title.
Messi embarked on an all-out assault on the record books in 2012. He became the first player to score five goals in a Champions League match in early March, and a few weeks later he surpassed Cesar Rodriguez's club-record 232 goals to become Barcelona's all-time leading scorer. By the end of 2012, Messi had accumulated an astounding 91 goals in club and international play, eclipsing the 85 netted in a single calendar year by Gerd Muller in 1972. Fittingly, he broke one more record when he was named the FIFA Ballon d'Or winner for the fourth time in January 2013. Messi led team Argentina to the finals of the 2014 World Cup. Although his team lost to Germany, he was named best player of the tournament.
Messi is a Catholic, but his religious views are not something he talks much about, or at all for that matter.
Interestingly, an Islamic news organization reported that Messi had converted to Islam. Their sources were unconfirmed and Messi never even bothered to speak out about it. Nevertheless, rumors now abound that Messi is a Muslim.
Messi isn’t really political himself, he just tends to be used by politicians–sometimes without his permission. A photo of Messi was used by politician Alfredo Olmedo of Salta, Argentina with the caption (loosely translated): Say yes to sports, say no to drugs. Messi pursued legal action against Olmedo.
Also, Messi’s likeness was used at an EU political conference, but only as an example of an excellent European even though he’s really Argentinian.
If Messi has any actual political views (and I’m sure he does), he manages to keep them out of the spotlight–which might be for the better as he’s a football hero to most people, not a social commentator.
Almost universally regarded as the best player in the game, the boyish Messi has become the commercial face of soccer with endorsements from Adidas, Pepsi, EA Sports and Turkish Airways, among other companies. Having signed an extension with Barcelona that guarantees him a base salary of approximately $21 million per year through 2018, he is one of the world's highest-paid athletes.
Although he is famously quiet and private off the field, Messi has found ways to help out others in need. In 2007, he formed the Leo Messi Foundation to provide opportunities for disadvantaged youths. In early 2010, UNICEF named him a goodwill ambassador, with a focus on fighting for children's rights across the globe.
"You have to fight to reach your dream. You have to sacrifice and work hard for it."
"I'm lucky to be part of a team who help to make me look good, and they deserve as much of the credit for my success as I do for the hard work we have all put in on the training ground."
"I prefer to win titles with the team ahead of individual awards or scoring more goals than anyone else. I'm more worried about being a good person than being the best football player in the world. When all this is over, what are you left with? When I retire, I hope I am remembered for being a decent guy."
"Money is not a motivating factor. Money doesn't thrill me or make me play better because there are benefits to being wealthy. I'm just happy with a ball at my feet. My motivation comes from playing the game I love. If I wasn't paid to be a professional footballer I would willingly play for nothing."
"There are more important things in life than winning or losing a game."
"There's nothing more satisfying than seeing a happy and smiling child. I always help in any way I can, even if it's just by signing an autograph. A child's smile is worth more than all the money in the world."
"In football as in watchmaking, talent and elegance mean nothing without rigour and precision."
"Every year I try to grow as a player and not get stuck in a rut. I try to improve my game in every way possible. But that trait is not something I've worked on, it's part of me."
"Whether it's a friendly match, or for points, or a final, or any game - I play the same. I'm always trying to be my best, first for my team, for myself, for the fans, and to try and win."
"You cannot allow your desire to be a winner to be diminished by achieving success before and I believe there is room for improvement in every sportsman."
"I never think about the play or visualize anything. I do what comes to me at that moment. Instinct. It has always been that way."
"Being named among the best at something is special and beautiful. But if there are no titles, nothing is won."
"It seems like people want to blame me for everything. Whenever any issue arises, I'm said to have been involved even if I've had nothing to do with it. That's why I always focus on what I know, which is playing football, and try to be very careful with what I say because people always try and twist things."
"I've always really just liked football, and I've always devoted a lot of time to it. When I was a kid, my friends would call me to go out with them, but I would stay home because I had practice the next day. I like going out, but you have to know when you can and when you can't."
"I am competitive and I feel bad when we lose. You can see it in me when we've lost. I'm in a bad way. I don't like to talk to anyone."
"I've never stopped being Argentine, and I've never wanted to. I feel very proud of being Argentine, even though I left there. I've been clear about this since I was very young, and I never wanted to change."
Lionel is strong, fast and creative. He is comfortable at any of the forward positions and is not intimidated by bigger players. There is almost nothing he cannot do on a soccer field, and his powerful shot makes him especially good on set plays, such as penalty kicks and corners.
Lionel breezes past defenders almost effortlessly, feinting one way until a tackler commits and then taking the ball in the opposite direction. When he gets up a head of steam, opponents find themselves having to guess which way he will go—he gives away little with his body language.
Perhaps the scariest thing about Lionel is how cool-headed he is for a young player. The son of a coach always views the field a little differently, but he sees things his own coaches often do not. That is why he is so good in the late stages of a game, either as a starter or a sub. With 70 or 80 minutes to analyze an enemy defense, he knows precisely how and when to strike at an opponent’s soft spot.
Ultimately, Lionel’s greatest genius is a result of his size. Because he does not have the physique to make space for himself, he does so in other ways. He is always aware of the players around him and will give up the ball knowing he’ll get it back in better position. No one in pro soccer is as good at creating space and opportunity where none seems to exist.
Quotes from others about the person
“"Messi is the best in the world without any doubt and for me the history of football," Luis Enrique.
"Once they said they can only stop me with a pistol. Today you need a machine gun to stop Messi." - Hristo Stoichkov.
"Messi or Ronaldo best player in the world? In the world, I would say Ronaldo. Messi is from another planet." - Turkish international Arda Turan.
"Messi is God, as a person and even more as a player. I knew him when he was a boy and I’ve watched him grow. He deserves it all." - Samuel Eto'o.
"Although he may not be human, it’s good that Messi still thinks he is." - Javier Mascherano.
"They tell me that all men are equal in God’s eyes, this player makes you seriously think about those words." - Football commentator Ray Hudson.
"Newton and Einstein had a certain level of autism - I hope that, like them, Messi surpasses himself every day and continues to give us his beautiful brand of football." - Romario.
"Messi is the Mozart of football." - Radomir Antic.
"It is clear that Messi is on a level above all others. Those who do not see that are blind." - Xavi.
"There are three or four important things in life: books, friends, women… and Messi." - Portuguese writer Antonio Lobo Antunes.
"Barca will never have a player like Messi again. Messi’s greatness is present on and off the field of play." - Barcelona president Sandro Rosell.
"Messi is class. There is him, and then there is the rest. What he does is extraordinary." - Franck Ribery.
"We give him the ball and stand back and watch. People often say to me they saw Pele and Maradona play. In the future, I will be able to say I saw Messi play." - Thiago Alcanatara.
"He is always going forwards. He never passes the ball backwards or sideways. He has only one idea, to run towards the goal. So as a football fan, just enjoy the show." - Zinedine Zidane.
"He sees passes that most people can only see whilst watching the game on TV, not ones that you can normally see on the pitch." - Tata Martino.
"For the world of football, Messi is a treasure because he is role model for children around the world… Messi will be the player to win the most Ballons d’Or in history. He will win five, six, seven. He is incomparable. He’s in a different league." - Johan Cruyff.
"Diego [Maradona] filled us with emotions. But between the cracks, without doubt, Messi is better than Maradona." - Diego Simeone.
"There is no doubt, you’re from another galaxy. Thanks Leo." - Maxi Rodriguez.
"Who is the Best Player in the World? Leo Messi. Who is the Best Player Ever? Leo Messi." - Arsene Wenger.
"I have seen the player who will inherit my place in Argentine football and his name is Messi. Messi is a genius." - Diego Maradona.
"Messi does not need his right foot. He only uses the left and he’s still the best in the world. Imagine if he also used his right foot, Then we would have serious problems." - Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
"It feels good to be in the same generation as him. I believe he’s the best player in the history of the sport." - Gerard Pique.
"Lionel Messi is quite clearly the best player ever. It’s a pleasure to pit myself against him and when I finish my career it’s something I can look back on and know I’ve tested myself against the very best." - John Terry.
"In my entire life I have never seen a player of such quality and personality at such a young age, particularly wearing the ‘heavy’ shirt of one of the world’s great clubs." - Fabio Capello.
"I am not crazy enough to compare myself with Messi because he is the best there ever was and the best there will ever be." - Mario Gomez.
"I was a big fan of Maradona growing up and of the current crop Ronaldo is good but Messi is the best I’ve ever seen. I don’t dish out praise lightly but Messi deserves it. I look for weaknesses in his game and I can’t find them." - Roy Keane.”
Jorge Luis Borge, Messi likes his book El Martin Fierro.
Sport & Clubs
Favorite color: red.
Favorite food: Escalope Milanese, Salad.
Favorite movie: Baby's day out.
Favorite TV-show: Primicias.
Music & Bands
music from Argentina, cumbia and reggae, Los Cafres, Sergio Torres, Oasis