Argentine football legend Lionel Messi is one of the best players of all time. He is the only person in the world to own six Golden Ball awards and has set a number of world records during his fruitful career. In addition to several championships and awards, he is also the player with the highest number of goals per match in the Champions League. On Instagram, he is followed by an unbelievable number of 210 million fans and is rightfully one of the best players that football has ever seen. What preceded the success of this global icon?
Too small to play football
Lionel Andrés Messi Cuccittini was born on June 24, 1987 in Rosario. His story began probably at a time when the young Jorge Horacio Messi married the charming girl Celia Maria Cuccittini. They had four children. One of them, named Lionel, was really special. He began to develop his passion for football from an early age, under the baton of his father Jorge.
His grandmother already predicted at the time that Lionel would one day become the best football players in the world. When he was 4 years old, she dragged him to a training at the local football club, Grandoli. However, couch Salvador Aparicio refused him because he was too small to play. There was no age category in the club for four-year-old players in which he could enter. His grandmother urged Aparicia so much that he eventually let little Leo play. And the talented boy scored two goals and made everyone’s jaws drop with his performance.
His growth was affected by a serious diagnosis
When Leo was six, he moved to Newell’s Old Boys, where he gradually showed his great potential. Thanks to the passion for the game and the results achieved, the team later got a nickname The Machine of ’87. Messi played there until 2000, during which time he scored 234 goals in 176 games with Newell’s Old Boys.
The turning point in his promising beginnings came at a time when all of Messi’s teammates except him began to grow. After many tests, a serious diagnosis was made – growth hormone deficiency. Growth hormone deficiency in children causes them to be much shorter at their age. If this problem is not solved, children will never catch up in the growth of their peers, and physical differences will become even more apparent in adulthood.
Hope for treatment through FC Barcelona
Messi’s parents could not afford to pay for a full and expensive treatment. Thus began the game with time, which was accompanied by a bad economic situation in the country. Injection therapy was supposed to deliver the missing amount of growth hormone to little Leo’s body, which would help him grow further.
The Newell’s Old Boys team promised to help, but it later proved to be insufficient. The cost of treatment was in the range of $1,000 to $1,500 a month. Messi’s club managed to put together only 200 pesos, which it sent to the family from time to time. In short, they could not afford a larger amount. However, Leo’s family managed to arrange for the boy’s try-out in Barcelona, which brought new hope. Argentine agent Horacio Gaggioli also helped them.
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The first contract on a paper tissue
When Barcelona manager Carles Rexach saw Messi, he was really impressed with the boy’s abilities. Even so that he wanted to sign a contract with him immediately. However, the rest of the team’s leadership hesitated. At that time, it was very unusual for European clubs to sign a contract with a foreign player, especially at such a young age.
Barcelona was hesitating for a long time, so Messi’s father Jorge came up with the ultimatum that if they did not sign a contract with his son, they would get on a plane and fly back home from the country. Carles Rexach’s response was very quick. He took a tissue lying on the table and gave the family a word that Messi would be taken to the team. He wrote on the tissue the conditions, which also included compensation for the costs of treating the boy in Spain.
Part of the prestigious La Masia Academy
In February 2001, Messi’s family moved to Barcelona and Messi became part of its prestigious La Masia Academy. During the first year, however, he could not play due to a difficult transition from Newell’s Old Boys. Due to the new environment, little Leo was too quiet at first. Teammates even thought he was mute.
However, when he finally got on the field, he let his talent speak for himself. He advanced quickly through the junior rating system and was accompanied by players such as Gerard Piqué and Cesc Fàbregas. In absolutely record time, he went through several youth levels and played his first official match in the youth team on April 7, 2001 against FC Amposta (3:0).
He made his professional debut at the age of 16
November 16, 2003 is an extremely important day for the history of FC Barcelona. At that time, Lionel Messi made his first professional debut. He was only 16 years old, and his team met in a friendly match with FC Porto, under the leadership of the legendary Mourinho.
When the phenomenal Ronaldinho saw him play, he stated that Messi would be a better footballer than himself. The rising star was given the opportunity to play in La Liga a year later and became a stable part of Barça.
With Messi’s help, Barcelona won the title after a long time
Lionel Messi became the youngest player to ever score in La Liga, at the age of 17. He scored his first goal in big football on May 1, 2005.
The 2004/2005 season was exceptional for the Catalan team. With Messi’s help, FC Barcelona managed to win the title again after a very long time.
The fantastic Leo has shown excellent performance and incredible potential that season. He received words of praise from the world’s leading experts. He was even more successful the year after, when his performances were accompanied by huge praise from all fans.
He also attracted the attention of Juventus coach Fabio Capella, who immediately wanted him on a loan. Inter Milan went even further, offering for Messi 150 million euros. Despite this, he remained loyal to Barcelona and they extended and improved his contract accordingly.
He scored the same way as Maradona
In the 2006-07 season, Messi played 36 matches and scored 17 times. Shortly afterwards, the football world began to compare it with the legendary Diego Maradona. This was mainly due to a memorable goal in 2007, which Messi scored in the match against Getafe CF. He walked around six players then and scored in a very confident way. The situation looked almost the same as Maradona’s goal at the 1986 World Cup.
Messi’s first coach Salvador Aparicio also mentioned this emotional moment with pride. By the way, he was the one who didn’t even want to give him a chance at the beginning. Messi’s work on the pitch did not escape Diego Maradona’s sight either. He said of Leo that he had seen a boy who will take his place in Argentine football. His name is Messi and he is a genius.
Author of Barcelona’s 5,000th La Liga goal and Ronald’s biggest rival
Lionel Messi’s greatness did not end there. He became a symbol of Barcelona and won several prestigious awards. He entered the history of the club, among other things, after scoring Barcelona’s 5,000th La Liga goal on February 1, 2009. This season was also particularly interesting, full of important titles and goals. Barcelona defeated Real Madrid with a great score of 6:2 and Messi was the author of 2 goals. He finished the season with an incredible balance of 38 goals in 51 matches.
His strong rivalry with Cristiano Ronaldo also resonated with fans, and the topic of who is a better player still remains a conversation starter. This rivalry added an explosive touch to every El Classico. The football awards, which were often won by the Messi/Ronaldo pair, were no exception. Lionel himself has 6 Golden Balls to his name. Ronaldo has 5 of them and lags behind Messi in Golden Boots as well, in the ratio of 4:6.
Year of hat-tricks, goal madness and other records
2010 was a year of hat-tricks for the unstoppable Messi. He managed to get six of them during this season. He gradually became the hero of every match and broke a record after record. However, it was not just about him, but also about the whole team of superstars. At that time, the team consisted of names like Iniesta, Piqué, Villa or Xavi. These guys excelled in football since they were small kids, and it was one of the things which drove their incredible performances.
Messi scored for Barcelona in La Liga 132 goals. Among his most successful seasons were the years 2011-12, when he scored 73 goals and 34 assists. This number has surpassed all previous records. However, even that was not enough for the star Leo, and he finished the year 2012 with an incredible 91 goals. Following seasons brought further success, and in 2015 Messi was named by the Forbes Magazine the second best-paid athlete on the planet, right after Cristiano Ronaldo.
Unfulfilled hopes of the national team
After the glory in Barcelona and recognition from the biggest names in football, the national team of Argentina also placed huge hopes in Messi. They hoped that it would help them win the World Cup, similarly to the legendary Maradona. However, this did not happen and Argentina was closest to the title in 2014, when they lost in the final with Germany (1:0). Of course, the whole team was very disappointed at that time.
The turning point came two years later, when Lionel Messi announced with tears in his eyes that he was ending his career in the national team. According to him, he did everything he could in the national team, but even that was not enough. At that time, Argentina experienced their third defeat in recent years, which eliminated them from the finals. Messi later reconsidered his decision because he felt it would be better not to be just an external critic. He returned to the national team and was a very active part of it. However, they still did not win the title. In 2021 they finally achieved success at Copa América, when they defeated Brazil 1-0 in the final.
Market value of 80 million euros and his own charity to help children
Despite the failures in the national team, Messi has nothing to regret. He is one of the best players on the planet. According to the renowned website Transfermarket, his market value in June 2021 is equal to 80 million euros. In addition, he is known for his charitable intentions. During his career, he did not forget about the health problems he went through as a child. Therefore, he founded his own charity, which works to diagnose various childhood diseases.
It also covers the cost of treatment in Spain. He also became the Ambassador for Children’s Human Rights at UNICEF. In 2013, he donated 600,000 euros to renovate the children’s hospital. In the same year, a gold replica of his left leg, which weighed 25 kilograms, was auctioned. The fan artefact was auctioned off for more than $5 million to help the victims of tsunami.
A loving husband, but also a convicted tax evader
It is not very easy to get an inside into Messi’s private life. He very much protects his organised family life, but nevertheless there are a few things we know about him. In 2017, Leo married Antonela Roccuzzo, who was his childhood love. Their love story was accompanied by ups, downs and also a break-up, after which they returned to each other and raised two beautiful children. To ensure their privacy, the star Barcelona player bought the houses of his neighbours. It is also interesting that planes are not allowed to fly over his house.
In addition to the bright moments, Messi’s career was also marked by a stain in the form of a lawsuit. He and his father, who worked as his agent, were charged and convicted of tax fraud. Messi himself defended himself by concentrating on football and entrusting accounting to his father and his lawyers. However, this was not enough for the court. Lionel Messi was sentenced to 21 months and his father Jorge to 15 months. However, they did not go to prison and were released on a probation and a very greasy fine. Leo had to pay 2 million euros and Jorge half a million less.
A few years later, in 2020, the legend of Barcelona started considering leaving the football giant. The reason is to be a loss of confidence in the leadership and a definitive loss of patience after losing in the quarterfinals of the Champions League. At that time, Barcelona was literally crushed by Bayern Munich with a result of 8:2. Messi’s contract was due to expire at the end of this June.
The bitter departure from FC Barcelona, which was accompanied by a lot of tears and left the football world in shock
The future of Messi in Barcelona was unclear until August 2021. It was accompanied by a wealth of unconfirmed information that the star player insisted on raising the salary, which Messi himself eventually denied. Later, there were reports of an alleged agreement, and everything was to be the same again as before. These turned out to be true, and both sides really wanted to agree. However, the rules of the Spanish league were uncompromising in this case. The Catalan club has been exceeding players’ salary caps for a long time. Even without Messi’s contract, FC Barcelona is said to have substantial debts; this number is most often said to be more than 1 billion euros.
The fact that Messi himself was meant to reduce his salary by 50% just to stay did not help as well. In short, Barcelona exceeded the player spending limit and could no longer afford Messi. The star player announced this decision at a very emotional press conference, during which he cried and kept wiping his tears. At one point, he even had to leave the microphone. Barcelona has been his home for an incredible 21 years.
The French welcome Messi with open arms
The definitive end of an era in FC Barcelona did not have time to trigger an avalanche of other questions. Messi’s future was clear in a few days. Several clubs showed interest, but negotiations with the French club Paris Saint-Germain proved to be successful.
The contract he signed is valid for 2 years, with the possibility of extension for one more. In PSG he will wear a shirt with the number 30, in which he has already managed to pose for the fans. In the team, he will be joined by other big names such as Sergio Ramos, Danilo Pereira, Neymar Jr and the phenomenal Kylian Mbappé. According to several unofficial sources, Leo is supposed to earn 40 million euros per year in PSG.
So, who do you think is a better player? Messi or Ronaldo? What do you think about Leo’s transfer to PSG? If you liked the article, be sure to share it with your friends.
 Lionel Messi Biography – https://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/lionel-messi-5242.php
 Lionel Messi: How many goals did he score for Newell’s Old Boys? – https://www.givemesport.com/1594281-lionel-messi-how-many-goals-did-he-score-for-newells-old-boys
 Rosario. The Old Coach and the Kid – https://www.independent.ie/sport/soccer/rosario-the-old-coach-and-the-kid-26496103.html
 FC Barcelona - Lionel Messi
 Almeria 0-8 Barcelona: Lionel Messi Hat-Trick Inspires Barca To Equal Record Away Win – https://www.goal.com/en/news/722/la-liga/2010/11/20/2223221/almeria-0-8-barcelona-lionel-messi-hat-trick-inspires-barca
 Breaking Down Lionel Messi's Magical 91-Goal Year for Barcelona and Argentina – https://bleacherreport.com/articles/1456355-breaking-down-lionel-messis-magical-91-goal-year-for-barcelona-and-argentina
 Lionel Messi: Argentina forward retires from international football – https://www.bbc.com/sport/football/36637591