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Lionel Messi Biography: Everything You Need to Know About Argentine Soccer Player

| How Africa News

 

Luis Lionel Andres (“Leo”) Messi is an Argentine soccer forward for FC Barcelona and the Argentina national team. Messi relocated from Argentina to Spain at the age of 13 when FC Barcelona promised to pay for his medical treatment.

There, he established himself as one of the greatest players in history, assisting his club in winning over two dozen league titles and competitions. He set a record for most goals in a calendar year in 2012, and he was voted Europe’s Ballon d’Or winner for the sixth time in 2019.

Early Life

Messi was born in Rosario, Argentina, on June 24, 1987. As a little boy, Messi accompanied his two older siblings as they played soccer with their pals, unafraid of the bigger lads. He was selected at the age of eight to join the development system of Newell’s Old Boys, a Rosario-based club.

Messi, who was noticeably smaller than most children his age, was finally diagnosed by physicians as having a hormone deficit that hampered his growth. Messi’s parents, Jorge and Ceclia, opted on a program of nightly growth hormone injections for their son, but the treatment quickly became too expensive, costing several hundred dollars per month.

So, at the age of 13, when Messi was offered the opportunity to train at FC Barcelona’s youth academy, La Masia, and have his medical bills covered by the team, Messi’s family packed their belongings and moved across the Atlantic to make a new home in Spain. Despite feeling homesick in his new country, Messi rose quickly through the ranks of the junior system.

Finally, Messi’s diminutive size (5 feet, 7 inches), paired with his speed and aggressive attacking approach, has prompted similarities to another great Argentine footballer, Diego Maradona.

Soccer Career and Teams

FC Barcelona and Argentina

Messi has only played for FC Barcelona, where he first signed at age 13. He also plays for the Argentina national team.

Messi made his debut for FC Barcelona at the age of 16, becoming the franchise’s youngest player to ever score a goal on May 1, 2005. That same year, he led Argentina to the under-20 World Cup title, scoring on a pair of penalty kicks to help the team defeat Nigeria.

Messi led Barcelona to numerous victories, most notably in 2009, when the club won the Champions League, La Liga, and the Spanish Super Cup. After two consecutive runner-up finishes, he received his first FIFA “World Player of the Year” honor/Ballon d’Or the same year.

Even the great Maradona gushed about his fellow countryman. “I see him as very similar to me,” the retired player told the BBC. “He’s a leader and is offering lessons in beautiful football. He has something different than any other player in the world.”

Despite this, the soccer magician continued to grow, discovering new methods to avoid opponents while leading Barcelona to La Liga and Spanish Super Cup titles in 2010 and 2011, as well as the Champions League triumph in 2011.

In 2012, Messi launched an all-out assault on the record books. In early March, he became the first player in Champions League history to score five goals in a single game, and a few weeks later, he eclipsed Cesar Rodriguez’s club-record 232 goals to become Barcelona’s all-time best scorer.

By the end of 2012, Messi had scored 91 goals in club and international play, breaking Gerd Muller’s 1972 record of 85 goals in a calendar year. In January 2013, he broke another record as he was awarded the FIFA Ballon d’Or winner for the fourth time.

Due to the persistence of hamstring ailments, the soccer great came back to earth somewhat that year, but he restored his record-breaking form by becoming the all-time leading scorer in La Liga and Champions League competition in late 2014.

He received his fifth FIFA Ballon d’Or prize after assisting Barcelona win a record second triple in 2015. Four years later, after winning another La Liga title, Messi set a new bar for greatness by winning his sixth Ballon d’Or.

Messi will join French club Paris Saint-Germain on August 10, 2021. On August 29, he made his debut for the club.

Criticism for Argentina National Team Performance

Despite his success with Barcelona, Messi has come under scrutiny for his failure to assist Argentina win a major championship. He did lead “La Albiceleste” to the 2014 World Cup final, where he was voted player of the tournament despite his team’s loss to Germany.

Following Argentina’s second consecutive loss to Chile in the Copa America final in 2016, Messi announced his retirement from the national team.

The soccer legend eventually changed his mind, but his participation in the 2018 World Cup did not result in the coveted trophy. After scoring an early goal in Argentina’s 2-1 triumph against Nigeria, Messi was mostly held in check by France, with his two assists not enough to prevent a 4-3 defeat that sent Argentina packing.

The South American Football Confederation banned Messi for three games the following year after he aggressively insulted the referees following Argentina’s 2-0 loss to Brazil in the Copa America quarterfinals.

Stats

As of August 2019, Messi’s all-time highlights for FC Barcelona:

  • Appearances: 687
  • Goals: 603
  • Assists: 251
  • Shot accuracy: 48 percent
  • Chances created: 348

Messi has won FIFA’s Player of the Year six times. He’s also won the European Golden Shoe for top scorer six times, two more than his nearest rival, Cristiano Ronaldo.

Tax Fraud Scandal

Messi was hit off the field in July 2016 after a Barcelona court found him and his father guilty of three counts of tax fraud. During the four-day trial, Messi and his father denied breaking the law and claimed they were unaware of any tax evasion.

They were both sentenced to 21 months in prison, though. Under Spanish law, first offenses of less than two years are suspended, so they did not go to jail, but Messi was fined 2 million euros. His father had to pay 1.5 million euros.

Personal Life

Messi married Antonella Roccuzzo, his longtime girlfriend and the cousin of his best friend and fellow soccer star Lucas Scaglia, on June 30, 2017. Messi and Roccuzzo have three children: Thiago (born November 2012), Mateo (born September 2015), and Ciro (born March 2018).

Messi met Roccuzzo when he was five years old in their hometown of Rosario. Their civil ceremony, nicknamed the “wedding of the century” by Argentina’s Clarn newspaper, was held at a fancy hotel in Rosario, with a number of other star soccer players and Colombian pop sensation Shakira among the 260-person guest list.

Charity and UNICEF

Messi, who is notoriously private off the field, has quietly assisted others in need. In 2007, he established the Leo Messi Foundation to help disadvantaged youths. In early 2010, UNICEF appointed him as a goodwill ambassador, with the goal of fighting for children’s rights around the world.

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