Lionel Messi


Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi
Messi Copa America 2011 .jpg
Personal information
Full name Lionel Andrés Messi[1]
Date of birth 24 June 1987 (1987-06-24) (age 24)[2]
Place of birth Rosario, Argentina[2]
Height 1.69 m (5 ft 6 12 in)[2]
Playing position Striker / Second striker
Club information
Current club Barcelona
Number 10
Youth career
1995–2000 Newell's Old Boys
2000–2003 Barcelona
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
2003 Barcelona C 8 (5)
2004–2005 Barcelona B 22 (6)
2004– Barcelona 189 (134)
National team
2005 Argentina U20 7 (6)
2008 Argentina U23 5 (2)
2005– Argentina 66 (19)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only and correct as of 22:32, 19 November 2011 (UTC).

† Appearances (Goals).

‡ National team caps and goals correct as of 08:45, 16 November 2011 (UTC)

Lionel Andrés "Leo" Messi[3] (born 24 June 1987) is an Argentine footballer who plays for FC Barcelona and captains the Argentina national team, mainly as a striker. Messi received several Ballon d'Or and FIFA World Player of the Year nominations by the age of 21, and won in 2009[4][5][6][7] and 2010.[8] His playing style and ability have drawn comparisons to Diego Maradona, who himself declared Messi as his "successor."[9][10]

Messi began playing football at a young age and his skill and potential was soon realized 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 his team record for the youngest footballer to score a league goal. Major honours soon followed as Barcelona won La Liga in Messi's debut season, and won a double of the league and Champions League in 2006. His breakthrough season was in the 2006–07 season; he became a first team regular, scoring a hat-trick in El Clásico and finishing with 14 goals in 26 league games. Messi then had the most successful season of his playing career, the 2008–09 season, in which he scored 38 goals to play an integral part in a treble-winning campaign. This record-breaking season was then eclipsed in the following 2009–10 campaign, where Messi scored 47 goals in all competitions, equalling Ronaldo's record total for Barcelona. He surpassed this record again in the 2010–11 season with 53 goals in all competitions.

Messi has won five La Liga titles, three Champions League titles, scoring in two of those finals, against Manchester United in both 2009 and 2011. He was not on the pitch as Barcelona defeated Arsenal in 2006, but received a winners' medal from the tournament. After scoring 12 goals in the 2010–11 Champions League, Messi became only the third player (after Gerd Müller and Jean-Pierre Papin) to top-score in three successive European Champion Clubs' Cup campaigns. However, Messi is the first one to win the Champions League top scorer titles for three consecutive years after Champions League changed its format in 1992.[11]

Messi was the top scorer of the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship with six goals, including two in the final game. 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. At international level Messi has scored 19 goals in 66 games.

Contents

Early life

Messi was born in Rosario, Santa Fe, to parents Jorge Horacio Messi, a factory steel worker, and Celia María Cuccittini, a part-time cleaner.[12][13][14][15] His paternal family originates from the Italian city of Ancona, from which his ancestor, Angelo Messi, emigrated to Argentina in 1883.[16][17] He has two older brothers named Rodrigo and Matías as well as a sister named María Sol.[18] At the age of five, Messi started playing football for Grandoli, a local club coached by his father Jorge.[19] In 1995, Messi switched to Newell's Old Boys who were based in his home city Rosario.[19] At the age of 11, he was diagnosed with a growth hormone deficiency.[20] The traditional River Plate showed interest in Messi's progress, but did not have enough money to pay for treatment for his condition which cost $900 a month.[15] Carles Rexach, the sporting director of FC Barcelona, had been made aware of his talent as Messi had relatives in Lleida, Catalonia, and Messi and his father were able to arrange a trial.[15] Rexach, with no other paper at hand, offered Messi a contract written on a paper napkin.[21][22] Barcelona offered to pay for Messi's medical bills if he was willing to move to Spain. Messi and his father moved to Barcelona where Messi enrolled in the club's youth academy.[19][22]

Club career

Barcelona

Messi played in Barcelona's junior Infantil B and Cadete B & A teams from 2000 to 2003 (scoring 37 goals in 30 matches in Cadete A). Season 2003–04 saw him in record[23] five different teams: He started one match in Juvenil B (1 goal) and got promoted to Juvenil A (14 matches, 21 goals). Later he debuted for FC Barcelona C team (Tercera División) on 29 November 2003 and for FC Barcelona B (Segunda División B) on 6 March 2004. He played for both teams during the season (8 matches, 5 goals and 5 games, 0 goals, respectively).[24][25][26] Even before these two debuts, Messi made his official debut for the first-team on 16 November 2003 aged 16 years and 145 days, in a friendly match against Porto.[27][28]

Less than a year later, Frank Rijkaard let him make his league debut against RCD 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. This record was broken by Bojan Krkić in September 2007. When he scored his first senior goal for the club against Albacete Balompié on 1 May 2005, Messi was 17 years, ten months and seven days old, becoming the youngest to ever score in a La Liga game for Barcelona[29] until it was again broken by Bojan Krkić in 2007, scoring from a Messi assist.[30] Messi said about his ex-coach Rijkaard: "I'll never forget the fact that he launched my career, that he had confidence in me while I was only sixteen or seventeen."[31] Messi played also in Barcelona B during the season. Messi is Barcelona's second highest goalscorer surpassing László Kubala on 194 goals and now only is behind César Rodríguez Álvarez on 235 goals in all official competitions.[32]

2005–06 season

"The Maradona and Pelé polemics will end"

 —Diego Maradona, on the consequences if Messi won the 2010 World Cup[33]

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.[19] Messi obtained Spanish citizenship on 26 September 2005[34] 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.[27] 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.[35]

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.[36] Rijkaard's Barcelona ended the season as champions of Spain and Europe.[37][38]

2006–07 season

Messi in a match against Rangers in 2007

In the 2006–07 season, Messi established himself as a regular first team player, scoring 14 times in 26 matches.[39] On 12 November, in the game against Real Zaragoza, Messi suffered a broken metatarsal, ruling him out for three months.[40][41] Messi recuperated from his injury in Argentina, and his return to action came against Racing Santander on 11 February,[42] 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.[43] 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.[44] 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.[45]

Messi shortly before scoring a goal against Getafe

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.[46] 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.[47] The world's sports press drew comparisons with Maradona, and the Spanish press labelled Messi as "Messidona".[48] 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.[46] 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."[49] 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.[50] Despite protests by Espanyol players and replays showing it was clear handball, the goal stood.[50]

2007–08 season

Messi takes Barcelona to 2–0 against Sevilla at Camp Nou on 22 September 2007

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.[51] He scored two goals against Sevilla FC on 22 September[52] and then on 26 September, Messi scored another two goals in a 4–1 victory over Real Zaragoza.[53] Next goal came in 4–1 away win against Levante UD in 29 September 2007. His second Champions League goal of the season came against VfB Stuttgart. On 27 February, Messi played in his 100th official match for Barcelona against Valencia.[54]

Messi was nominated for a FIFPro World XI Player Award under the category of Forward.[55] 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.[56] 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.[57] Football personalities such as Francesco Totti have declared that they consider Messi to be one of the current best footballers in the world.[58]

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.[59] After coming back from the injury Messi scored his last goal of 2007–08 season against Valencia CF on 4 May 2008 in a 6–0 win. When the season was over Messi managed to score 16 goals and assisted 13 times in all competition.

2008–09 season

Upon Ronaldinho's departure from the club, Messi inherited his number 10 jersey.[60] 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.[61] The next league game was versus Atlético Madrid, a match billed as a friendly battle between Messi and his good friend Sergio Agüero.[62] Messi scored a goal from a free kick and assisted another as Barça went on to win the match 6–1.[63] 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.[64] 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.[65] He was also named second in the 2008 FIFA World Player of the Year awards with 678 points.[6]

Messi scored his first hat-trick of 2009 in a Copa del Rey tie against Atlético Madrid which Barcelona won 3–1.[66] 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.[67] 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.[68] On 8 April 2009, he scored twice against Bayern Munich in the Champions League, setting a personal record of eight goals in the competition.[69] 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.[70]

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[71] in what was Real's heaviest defeat since 1930.[72] 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.[73] 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.[74] 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.[75] 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.[76] This victory meant Barcelona had won the Copa del Rey, La Liga and Champions League in the one season,[77] and was the first time a Spanish club had ever won the treble.[78]

2009–10 season

Messi in action during the Joan Gamper Trophy match between Barcelona and Manchester City at Camp Nou

After winning the 2009 UEFA Super Cup, Barcelona manager Josep Guardiola asserted that Messi was probably the best player he had ever seen.[79] 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.[80][81] 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.[82] He scored his first European goal of the season on 29 September in a 2–0 win over Dynamo Kyiv,[83] and then took his goal tally to six goals in seven games in La Liga with a strike during a 6–1 routing of Real Zaragoza at Camp Nou.[84][85]

Messi was named winner of the 2009 Ballon d'Or on 1 December 2009, beating runner-up Cristiano Ronaldo by largest ever margin of 473 to 233.[86][87][88] 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."[89]

On 19 December, Messi scored the winner in the final of the 2009 Club World Cup against Estudiantes in Abu Dhabi, giving the club their sixth title of the year.[90] 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.[91] 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,[92] and on 17 January he scored his 100th goal for the club in the 4–0 victory over Sevilla.[93]

Messi then started an impressive run scoring 11 goals in five games. First he scored on the 84th minute against Málaga CF for a 2–1 win,[94] then he scored two goals against UD Almería in a 2–2 tie.[95] He continued his spree with an impressive week where he scored eight goals; he started by scoring a hat-trick against Valencia CF in a 3–0 home win,[96] then he scored two goals against Stuttgart, in a 4–0 win that secured Barcelona's qualification to the quarterfinals of the Champions League,[97] and finally he scored another hat-trick against Zaragoza in a 4–2 away win,[98] becoming the first Barcelona player to score back-to-back hat-tricks in La Liga.[99] He played his 200th official match for Barcelona against Osasuna on 24 March 2010.[100]

"Once he's on the run, Messi is unstoppable. He's the only player who can change direction at such a pace."

"He is the best player in the world by some distance. He's (like) a PlayStation. He can take advantage of every mistake we make."

Arsène Wenger after Barcelona won 4–1 against Arsenal.[101][102]

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.[103][104][105] This also saw him overtake Rivaldo as Barcelona's all time greatest scorer in the competition.[106] On 10 April, 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.[107] On 1 May, Messi played his 50th game of the season and scored two goals on a 4–1 away win against Villarreal.[108] Just three days later, on 4 May, Messi scored two goals in another 4–1 win at home against Tenerife.[109] Messi scored his 32nd goal of the La Liga season on 8 May, during an away win against Sevilla,[110] and in the final match against Valladolid, he scored two goals in the second half to tie Ronaldo's club record of 34 goals in a single league season, set in 1996–97,[111][112] and to finish four goals behind the all-time record held by Telmo Zarra.[113] He was named La Liga player of the year for the second year in a row on 3 June 2010.[114]

2010–11 season

On 21 August 2010, Messi scored a hat-trick in his first start of the season in a 4–0 victory over Sevilla FC in the Supercopa de España, helping Barcelona secure their first trophy of the season after a 1–3 first leg loss.[115] He also began his league season with a goal, scoring after just three minutes against Racing Santander on 29 August 2010. He then continued his excellent form into the UEFA Champions League group stage match against Panathinaikos where he scored two goals, assisted another two and also hit the frame of the goal on two separate occasions.

On 19 September 2010, Messi suffered an ankle injury due to an ill-advised tackle by Atlético Madrid defender Tomáš Ujfaluši in the 92nd minute of their Round 3 match at the Vicente Calderón Stadium. At first sight it was feared that Messi suffered a broken ankle that could have kept the star player away from the pitch for a minimum of six months, but MRI performed the next day in Barcelona showed he suffered a sprain in the internal and external ligaments of his right ankle.[116] Team-mate David Villa stated "the tackle on Messi was brutal" after watching the video of the play and also added that he believed the Atlético defender "didn't go into the tackle to hurt".[117] The incident caused widespread media attention and brought up the debate of equality in protecting all players in the game.

When Messi recovered he scored in a 1–1 tie against RCD Mallorca. He then scored another brace on the UEFA Champions League against København and helped the team to a 2–0 home win.[118] He continued his impressive scoring run with braces against Zaragoza and Sevilla. After a prolific October, he started November scoring on an away 1–1 tie against København and an away 3–1 win against Getafe where he also assisted team-mates David Villa and Pedro Rodríguez.[119] In the next fixture against Villarreal CF, he scored combining with Pedro, which gave Barcelona a 2–1 lead. He scored another goal and Barcelona won 3–1. This was the 7th consecutive match in which Messi scored, breaking his own previous record of 6. He also achieved the feat of scoring 50 goals in the calender year of 2010 with the 1st goal, while with the second goal, he achieved the same feat again, this time considering the goals he scored wearing a Barcelona shirt in 2010. Against Almería he scored his second hat-trick of the season in an impressive 8–0 away win, the second goal was his 100th La Liga goal.[120] He scored on his ninth game in a row (10th including a friendly against Brazil) on a 3–0 away win against Panathinaikos.[121]

Messi playing against Real Madrid in a Champions League match

Messi's goalscoring run ended on 29 November at El Clásico but Barcelona still managed to win 5–0 with Messi assisting Villa twice.[122] The next match day he scored a brace and gave an assist against Osasuna.[123] He followed with another brace against Real Sociedad.[124] In El Derbi, a match Barcelona won 1–5, he assisted teammates Pedro and Villa to score one goal each.[125] His first goal in 2011 came against Deportivo La Coruña with a free kick on a 4–0 away win, where he once again assisted both Pedro and Villa.[126]

Messi won the 2010 FIFA Ballon d'Or, beating his Barcelona teammates Xavi and Iniesta.[127] Messi had been nominated for the awards for the fourth consecutive year.[128] Only two days after he won the award he scored his first hat-trick of the year and third of the season against Real Betis.[129] He began the second round of the league with a goal, scoring his second penalty against Racing Santander.[130] After scoring the penalty kick, Messi revealed a message on his undershirt that said, "Happy birthday, mami.".[131] He continued his goalscoring form with a brace against Almería in the Copa del Rey semifinal,[132] and followed it up with another brace less than a week later against Hércules CF.[133] On 5 February, Barcelona broke the record for most consecutive league wins with 16 victories after they defeated Atlético Madrid 3–0 at the Camp Nou.[134] Lionel Messi scored a hat-trick to ensure the victory for his side and after the match he stated, "it's an honor to be able to pass a record set by a great like Di Stéfano" and "if the record has been around for so long is because it's very complicated to achieve and we have reached it by defeating a very difficult team who's going through a bad situation, which makes it even more difficult."[135]

After two scoreless games he scored the winner against Athletic Bilbao in which Barcelona won 2–1.[136] The next week he scored the first header of the season against RCD Mallorca on a 3–0 away win.[137] This victory was the equalising a La Liga record set by Basque club Real Sociedad in the 1979–80 campaign with a 19 unbeaten away matches. The record was broken after three days later when Messi scored the only goal on an away victory over Valencia.[138] On 8 March, Messi scored two goals against Arsenal in a UEFA Champions League match at the Camp Nou, helping Barcelona win 3–1 and qualify to the quarter-finals of the competition.[139] After failing to score for a month he scored a brace against UD Almería; the second goal was his 47th of the season, equalling his club record return of the previous season.[140] He surpassed his record on 12 April 2011 by scoring the winner against Shakhtar Donetsk in a UEFA Champions League game, which put him in the record book as all time top scorer in a single season for Barcelona.[141] He scored his eight goal on El Clásico on a 1–1 tie at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium. On 23 April, Messi scored his 50th goal of the season against CA Osasuna in a 2–0 home victory which he came on as a substitute in the 60th minute.[142]

In the first leg of the Champions League semi-finals he gave a memorable performance, scoring twice against Real Madrid in a 2–0 win, the second goal (a dribble past several players) being acclaimed as one of the best ever at that stage of the competition.[143][144] At the Champions League Final at Wembley, Messi scored the eventual game-clinching goal to give Barcelona their third title in six years and fourth overall.[145]

2011–12 season

Messi started the season by lifting the Spanish Supercup with Barcelona, scoring three goals and providing two assists in a 5–4 aggregate win against Real Madrid.[146] His vital interventions continued in the next official match played against Porto when he scored again following a weak back pass from Fredy Guarín before setting up Cesc Fàbregas to give Barcelona a 2–0 victory and the UEFA Super Cup,[147] the only official competition that remained for him to score in.[148] Messi's La Liga campaign began with two goals against Villarreal CF[149] and he would go on to score hat-tricks in back to back home games against CA Osasuna[150] and Atlético Madrid.[151]

Messi showed in a league game against CA Osasuna on 17 September, why he is considered the best footballer in the world, on and off the field. After scoring his first goal of an eventual hat-trick in an 8-0 rout, Messi produced his special celebration for Soufian, a 10-year-old Moroccan boy with Laurin Sandrow syndrome, a rare medical condition that can eventually lead to the loss of the lower extremities. Whilst Messi usually points to the sky after scoring a goal, Messi slapped his thighs as a dedication to Soufian.[152]

On 28 September, Messi scored his first two Champions League goals of the season against BATE Borisov,[153] becoming Barcelona's second highest goalscorer in its history, tying László Kubala, at 194 goals in all official competitions.[154] He surpassed that record when he scored two goals against Racing de Santander.[155] He came just one goal from the 200 mark after another home hat-trick against Mallorca and became second in Barcelona's La Liga goalscorers list with 132 goals, one more than Kubala.[156] He scored his 200th Barcelona goal and two more as part of a hat-trick in his next game against Viktoria Plzeň in the Champions League.[157] He scored his first goal ever at San Mamés with an injury time equalizer for a 2–2 draw against Athletic Bilbao.[158] He followed that with a goal against Real Zaragoza.[159]

International career

In June 2004, he debuted for Argentina, playing in an under-20 friendly match against Paraguay.[160] 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,[161] scoring in the last four of Argentina's matches and netting a total of six for the tournament.

He made his full international debut on 17 August 2005 against Hungary at the age of 18. He was substituted on during the 63rd minute, but was sent off on the 65th minute because the referee, Markus Merk, found he had headbutted defender Vilmos Vanczák, who was tugging Messi's shirt. The decision was contentious and Maradona even claimed the decision was pre-meditated.[162][163] 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."[164] He then started his first game for Argentina against Peru; after the match Pekerman described Messi as "a jewel".[165]

On 28 March 2009, in a World Cup Qualifier against Venezuela, Messi wore the number 10 jersey for the first time with Argentina. This match was the first official match for Diego Maradona as the Argentina manager. Argentina won the match 4–0 with Messi opening the scoring.[166]

On 17 November 2010, Messi scored a last-minute goal against South American rivals Brazil after an individual effort to help his team to a 1–0 win in the friendly match, which was held in Doha. This was the first time that he had scored against Brazil at senior level.[167] Messi scored another last-minute goal on 9 February 2011 against Portugal in a penalty kick which he give his side a 2–1 victory in the friendly match, which was held in Geneva, Switzerland.

2006 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 2006 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.[168][169] He witnessed Argentina's opening match victory against Ivory Coast from the substitute's bench.[170] In the next match against Serbia and Montenegro, 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.[171] Messi started in Argentina's following 0–0 draw against the Netherlands.[172] 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 ruled offside with Argentina needing a late goal in extra time to proceed.[173][174] Coach José Pekerman left Messi on the bench during the quarter-final match against Germany, which they lost 4–2 on a penalty shootout.[175]

2007 Copa América

Messi at the 2007 Copa América

Messi played his first game in the 2007 Copa América 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.[176]

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 tournament's quarterfinals.[177]

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 assisted a goal for Javier Mascherano.[178] 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.[179] 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.[180] Argentina went on to lose 3–0 to Brazil in the final.[181]

2008 Summer Olympics

Messi in the semi-final against Brazil at the 2008 Olympics

Having barred Messi from playing for Argentina in the 2008 Olympics,[182] Barcelona agreed to release him after he held talks with newly appointed coach Josep Guardiola.[183] He joined the Argentina squad and scored the first goal in a 2–1 victory over Ivory Coast.[183] 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.[184] 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.[185]

2010 World Cup

Messi played the entire game on Argentina's opening match in the 2010 World Cup, the 1–0 victory against Nigeria. He had several opportunities to score but was repeatedly denied by Vincent Enyeama.[186] 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.[187] 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.[188]

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.[189] The World Cup ended for Argentina with a 4–0 loss against Germany in the quarter-finals.[190]

Messi was nominated in ten player shortlist for Golden Ball award by FIFA Technical Study Group. The group identified Messi with words: "Outstanding in his pace and creativity for his team, dribbling, shooting, passing – spectacular and efficient".[191]

2011 Copa América

Messi took part in the Copa América in Argentina, where he failed to score a goal but notched three assists. He was selected man-of-the-match in matches against Bolivia (1–1) and Costa Rica (3–0). Argentina were eliminated in the quarter-finals in a penalty shoot-out against Uruguay (1–1 a.e.t.), with Messi scoring as the first penalty taker.

Outside football

Personal life

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.[192][193] He has in the past also been linked to the Argentine glamour model Luciana Salazar.[194][195] 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".[195] He was seen with the girl, Antonella Roccuzzo,[196] at a carnival in Sitges after the Barcelona-Espanyol derby. Roccuzzo is a fellow native of Rosario.[197]

Messi has two cousins also involved in football: Maxi, a winger for Club Olimpia of Paraguay, and Emanuel Biancucchi, who plays as a midfielder for Spain's Girona FC.[198][199]

Charity

In 2007 Messi established the Leo Messi Foundation, a charity supporting access to education and health care for vulnerable children.[200][201] In an fansite interview, Messi said: “Being a bit famous now gives me the opportunity to help people who really need it, especially children."[202] In response to Messi’s own childhood medical difficulties, the Leo Messi Foundation supports Argentine children diagnosed with medical conditions by offering treatment in Spain and covering the transport, hospital and recuperation costs.[203] Messi’s foundation is supported by his own fundraising activity with additional assistance from Herbalife.

On 11 March 2010 Messi was announced as a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF.[204] Messi’s UNICEF ambassador activities are aimed at supporting children’s rights. Messi is supported in this by FC Barcelona, who also have a strong association with UNICEF.[205]

Media

An example of Messi's worldwide popularity and influence. Photographed in Arunachal Pradesh, northeast India

He is featured on the front covers of the video games Pro Evolution Soccer 2009 and Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 and is also involved in promotional campaigns for the games.[206][207] Messi, along with Fernando Torres,[208] is the face of Pro Evolution Soccer 2010, and was also involved in the motion capturing and the trailer.[209][210][211] Messi is sponsored by the German sportswear company Adidas and features in their television advertisements.[212] In June 2010, Messi also signed a three–year contract with Herbalife[213] which further supports the Leo Messi Foundation.

On April 2011, Messi was named in the 2011 TIME 100, the magazine's annual list of the most influential people in the world.[214]

Also in April 2011, Messi launched a Facebook page and within just a few hours his page had attracted more than six million followers. His Facebook page now has over 24 million followers.[215]

Career statistics

As of 6 November 2011[216][24]

Club

Club Season League Cup Champions League Supercup UEFA Super Cup Club World Cup Total
Apps Goals Assists Apps Goals Assists Apps Goals Assists Apps Goals Assists Apps Goals Assists Apps Goals Assists Apps Goals Assists
Barcelona 2004–05 7 1 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 9 1 0
2005–06 17 6 3 2 1 0 6 1 1 0 0 0 25 8 4
2006–07 26 14 2 2 2 1 5 1 0 2 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 36 17 3
2007–08 28 10 12 3 0 0 9 6 1 40 16 13
2008–09 31 23 11 8 6 2 12 9 5 51 38 18
2009–10 35 34 10 3 1 0 11 8 0 1 2 0 1 0 1 2 2 0 53 47 11
2010–11 33 31 18 7 7 3 13 12 3 2 3 0 55 53 24
2011–12 12 15 6 0 0 0 4 5 2 2 3 2 1 1 1 0 0 0 19 24 11
Total 189 134 62 26 17 6 62 42 12 7 8 2 3 1 2 2 2 0 288 204 84

International

[39][217]

National team Year Apps Goals Assists
Argentina U20 2005 7 6
Argentina U23 2008 5 2
Argentina 2005 5 0 0
2006 7 2 2
2007 13 6 3
2008 8 2 1
2009 10 3 2
2010 10 2 2
2011 13 4 10
Total A 66 19 20

International goals

Under–20

Scores and results list Argentina's goal tally first.[217][218]

Under–23

Senior team

Awards and honours

Club

Barcelona
2004–05, 2005–06, 2008–09, 2009–10, 2010–11
2008–09
2005, 2006, 2009, 2010, 2011
2005–06, 2008–09, 2010–11
2009, 2011
2009

Argentina

2005
2008

Individual

  • FIFA Ballon d'Or: 1
2010
2009
2009
2008, 2009, 2010
2007
2009, 2010, 2011
2010
2011
2007, 2009, 2010
2007, 2009, 2010, 2011
2010
  • UEFA Champions League top goalscorer: 3
2009, 2010, 2011
  • UEFA Best Player in Europe Award: 1
2011
2009
2009
2011
2009, 2011
2008, 2009, 2010
  • Footballer of the Year of Argentina: 5
2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010
2009, 2010
2006, 2007, 2008
2007, 2008
2007, 2008, 2009, 2010
2005
2005
2007
  • World Soccer Player of the Year: 1
2009
  • World Soccer Young Player of the Year: 3
2006, 2007, 2008
2009
2005–06, 2007–08, 2008–09, 2009–10, 2010–11
2009, 2010
2007
2005
2009
2007

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