Name: Lionel Andrés Messi Cuccittini
Place of Birth: Rosario (Argentina)
Date of Birth: 24.06.1987
Brothers: Rodrigo, Matias, Hijos
Mother: Celia Cuccittini
Father: Jorge Messi
Messi was born on 24 June 1987 at the Hospital Italiano Garibaldi in Rosario, Santa Fe, to parents Jorge Horacio Messi (born 1958), a factory worker, and Celia María Cuccittini, a part-time cleaner. His paternal family originates from the Italian city of Ancona, from which his ancestor, Angelo Messi, emigrated to Argentina in 1883. He has two older brothers named Rodrigo and Matías as well as a sister named María Sol.
Lionel Messi started playing football at a very early age for his local team, Gremio at the age of five years old. Leo’s father, Jorge was involved in the coaching of this team, and at such a young age, it was clear to see that Leo was at a level so much higher then everyone else. He shortly started to train with the youth system of the nearest professional team to him, Newell’s Old Boys.
However, from the age of 11, he suffered from a growth hormone deficiency. As his parents were unable to pay for treatment in Argentina, they decided to move to Barcelona, Spain, after scouts of FC Barcelona had been made aware of his talents. Shortly after arriving, he underwent a full trial, despite being only 13 years of age. He excelled at the trial and Barcelona chiefs offered to pay for his treatments if he joined them. Leo did so, and took the youth system by storm. He made his unofficial début for the senior team aged just 16, and his official début at 17.
Messi 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. Lionel 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. He made nine appearances in the season, scoring that one goal.
In June 2004, he debuted for Argentina at youth level, playing in an under-20 friendly match against Paraguay. Most notably, in 2005 he was part of a team of talented new players that won the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship in the Netherlands. There, he won the Golden Ball and the Golden Shoe for the best player. He scored two gaols in final against Nigeria.
A star had been born.
On 16 September, for the second time in three months, Barcelona announced an update to Messi’s contract; this time it was improved to pay him as a first team member and extended until June 2014. Messi obtained Spanish citizenship on 26 September 2005 and was finally able to make his debut in the season’s Spanish First Division. Messi’s first home outing in the 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 17 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. Rijkaard’s 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. 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 nearly 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 CF, one of which was very similar to Maradona’s famous goal against England at the 1986 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 (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 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 RCD Espanyol Messi also scored a goal which was remarkably similar to Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’ 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 Lyon 3–0 at home in a Champions League match. He scored two goals against Sevilla FC 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 Barcelona against Valencia.
Messi 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 injury. Lionel was able to return to the team towards the end of the season, although Barcelona’s season was in theory, already over.
Upon Ronaldinho’s departure from the club in the summer of 2008, 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 a 1–0 deficit to a 2–1 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 678 points.
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 eight 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 Champions League 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, the youngest in the tournament’s history, 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 Champions League in the one season, and was the first time a Spanish club had ever won the treble.
The following 2009/2010 season started badly for Leo as he sustained an injury on international duty. This occurred in a set of international fixtures which had been frowned upon by many coaches and players alike, as it took place before the start of European club campaigns. But 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, along with Zlatan Ibrahimović, the highest paid players 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 largest ever 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 Club World Cup against Estudiantes in Abu Dhabi, and thus giving the club their sixth title of the year.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 Tenerife in the 0–5 victory. On 17 January, Messi scored his 100th goal for the club in the 4–0 victory over Sevilla.
He then started an impressive run scoring 11 goals in five games. First he scored on the 84th minute against Málaga for a 2–1 win, then he scored two goals against Almería in a 2–2 tie. He continued his spree with an impressive week where he scored eight goals; he started by scoring a hat-trick against Valencia in a 3–0 home win, then he scored two goals against Stuttgart, in a 4–0 win that secured Barcelona’s qualification to the quarterfinals of the Champions League, and finally he scored another hat-trick against Zaragoza in a 4–2 away win, becoming the first FC Barcelona player to score back-to-back hat-tricks in La Liga. He played his 200th official match for Barcelona against Osasuna on 24 March 2010. On 6 April 2010, for the first time in Messi’s career he scored four goals in a single match, netting the lot in a 4–1 home win over Arsenal in the Champions League quarter-final second leg. This also saw him overtake Rivaldo as Barcelona’s all time greatest scorer in the competition.
Sadly, Barcelona were eliminated from the 2009-10 UEFA Champions League to Inter Milan, but despite this, On 10 April 2010, Messi scored his 40th goal of the season when he netted the first goal in a 2–0 away win against title-rivals Real Madrid in El Clásico. On 1 May, Messi played his 50th game of the season and scored two goals on a 4–1 away win against Villarreal with a total of 42 goals in 50 games. Just three days later, on 4 May, Messi scored two goals in another 4–1 win at home against Tenerife. Messi scored his 32nd goal in the current La Liga season on 8 May, during an away win against Sevilla, upping his tally once more to 45 goals for the season in all competitions, as well as further closing in on Ronaldo’s club record of 34 goals in a La Liga season, having scored 32 and needing only two goals in the last game of the season to equal his record set during the 1996–97 season. He was able to score these goals on the final day of the season as Barcelona secured yet another La Liga title.
Messi played the entire game on Argentina’s opening match 1–0 victory against Nigeria. He had several opportunities to score but was repeatedly denied by Vincent Enyeama. Messi started in Argentina’s following 4–1 win against Korea Republic; he participated in all of the goals of his team and helped Gonzalo Higuaín score a hat-trick. On the third and last group stage match Messi captained during Argentina’s 2-0 win over Greece, again being the centrepoint of Argentina’s play and was voted man of the match. At the Round of 16 he assisted Carlos Tévez for the first goal in a 3–1 win against Mexico. The referee awarded that goal even though it was a clear offside. The World Cup ended for Argentina with a disappointing 4-0 loss against Germany.
Blessed with supreme talents on the pitch, Leo has also proven to be something of an angel off it. He has been well documented for his humbled and mature attitude in conferences, in age of which such qualities are rarer to find in the game. To bolster this tag further, Lionel made a tribute to his father Jorge after scoring a goal for Argentina against Venezuela, by revealing a message under his shirt. Furthermore in 2009, he showed respect to sufferers of fragile x syndrome after scoring in El Clasico, and then in the off-season worked with the Family Association of Spinal Muscular Atrophy to aid victims of this condition.
Messi, being the media darling that he is, has been linked to a number of girls, of which it has been said he had been dating. The fist of these was Macarena Lemos, a young Argentine from his home town of Rosario. He has in the past also been linked to the Argentine model, Luciana Salazar, who was the official Argentinian representative model at the 2006 World Cup. However, both these stories were quashed as not true. Lionel stunned many of his fans when, In January 2009, he told “Hat Trick Barça”, in response to a question posed by a child “I have a girlfriend and she is living in Argentina, I am relaxed and happy”. The girl has since been identified as ‘Antonella’, a fellow native of Rosario.
With an ever increasing reputation, Konami approached Leo to work on their famous football gaming series, ‘Pro Evolution Soccer’. He features on the front cover of both the video games Pro Evolution Soccer 2009 and 2010, whilst also undergoing promotional campaigns and motion-capturing for for the games.
The Argentine has also been contacted to support the works of the Unicef charity. FC Barcelona currently display the UNICEF logo on their shirts and it appears the organisation are keen to expand their relationship by utilising the global recognition of Lionel Messi.