Messi is the fourth football player to win three Ballons d'Or, and the second player to win three consecutive Ballons d'Or. Messi has won five La Ligas, two Copas del Rey, five Supercopas de España, three Champions Leagues, two Super Cups and two Club World Cups. In 2012, Messi made UEFA Champions League history by becoming the first player to score five goals in one match. He also matched José Altafini's record of 14 goals in a single Champions League season. He also became the first player to top-score in four successive Champions League campaigns. He set the world record for most goals scored in a season during the 2011–12 season, with 73 goals. In the same season, he set the current goalscoring record in a single La Liga season, scoring 50 goals.
Messi was the top scorer of the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship with six goals. 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 which he was elected young player of the tournament. In 2008, he won his first international honour, an Olympic gold medal, with the Argentina Olympic football team. Sportspro has rated Lionel Messi as the third most marketable athlete in the world. His playing style and stature have drawn comparisons to Diego Maradona, who himself declared Messi as his "successor".
Early lifeMessi was born in Rosario, Santa Fe Province, to parents Jorge Horácio Messi, a factory steel 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, Rodrigo and Matías, and a sister, María Sol. At the age of five, Messi started playing football for Grandoli, a local club coached by his father Jorge. In 1995, Messi switched to Newell's Old Boys who were based in his home city Rosario. He became part of a local youth powerhouse that lost only one match in the next four years and became locally known as "The Machine of '87", from the year of their birth.
At the age of 11, Messi was diagnosed with a growth hormone deficiency. Local powerhouse 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. Carles Rexach, the sporting director of FC Barcelona, had been made aware of his talent as Messi had relatives in Lleida and Messi and his father were able to arrange a trial with the team. Rexach, with no other paper at hand, offered Messi a contract written on a paper napkin. 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.
BarcelonaMessi 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 on a record five different teams: He started one match in Juvenil B (one 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 (eight matches, five goals and five games, zero goals, respectively). 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.
Less than a year after his start, Frank Rijkaard gave him 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, which would be 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 until it was again broken by Bojan Krkić in 2007, scoring from a Messi assist. 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." During the season, Messi played also in Barcelona B (Segunda División B) scoring 6 goals in 17 matches.
2005–06 seasonOn 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.
2006–07 season2006–07 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. On 10 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.
 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 his time at FC Barcelona, manager Frank Rijkaard decided to move Messi from the left flank onto the right wing, initially against the player's wishes, allowing him to cut into the centre of the pitch and shoot or cross with his left foot.
2007–08 seasonValencia CF.
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 finished third in the 2007 Ballon d'Or, behind Kakà and Cristiano Ronaldo, and finished second in the 2007 FIFA World Player of the Year award, once again behind Kakà. He also came in third in the IFFHS World's Best Playmaker Award, once again behind Kakà and Andrea Pirlo.
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 FC. It was the fourth time in three seasons that Messi suffered this type of injury. Messi scored 6 goals and provided 1 assist during the Champions League that season, as Barcelona were knocked out in the semi-finals, to the eventual winners Manchester United. When the season was over Messi had managed to score 16 goals and assisted 13 times in all competitions.
2008–09 seasonUpon Ronaldinho's departure from the club, Messi inherited his number 10 jersey. During this season he placed second in the 2008 FIFA World Player of the Year awards with 678 points and third in the 2008 IFFHS World's Best Playmaker Award for the second consecutive year.
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. On 8 April 2009, he scored twice against Bayern Munich in the Champions League, setting a personal record of eight goals in the competition.
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. 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. Messi finished the season with 38 goals and 18 assists in all competitions.
2009–10 seasonAfter winning the 2009 UEFA Super Cup, Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola asserted that Messi was probably the best player he had ever seen. This would also be the season in which Guardiola would first move Messi from the position of right winger into his now iconic "false-9" role in the centre of the front line at Barcelona. 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, then along with Zlatan Ibrahimović, the highest paid players in La Liga, with earnings of around €9.5 million yearly.
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. He also placed 2nd in the 2009 IFFHS World's Best Playmaker Award. behind team mate Xavi Hernández.
2009 Club World Cup against Estudiantes in Abu Dhabi, 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 Argentinian 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 CD Tenerife in the 0–5 victory, and on 17 January he scored his 100th goal for the club in the 4–0 victory over Sevilla FC.
Messi scored a hat-trick against Valencia CF in a 3–0 home win, and finally he scored another hat-trick against Real Zaragoza in a 4–2 away win, becoming the first Barcelona player to score back-to-back hat-tricks in La Liga. He played his 200th official match for Barcelona against CA Osasuna on 24 March 2010.
2010–11 seasonOn 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.
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. 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". The incident caused widespread media attention and brought up the debate of equality in protecting all players in the game.
Against Almería Messi scored his second hat-trick of the season in an impressive 8–0 away win, the second of which was his 100th La Liga goal.
2010 FIFA Ballon d'Or, beating his Barcelona teammates Xavi and Iniesta. Messi had been nominated for the awards for the fourth consecutive year. 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. 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."
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. 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. He scored his eighth 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. He finished the season by winning La Liga and scoring 31 goals as he finished runner-up in the Pichichi trophy to Cristiano Ronaldo, who had managed to score 40. Messi finished the league season as the top assist provider with 18 assists.
On 20 April, Barcelona were defeated by arch-rivals Real Madrid in the 2011 Copa del Rey Final. Messi set up a goal for Pedro, which was however ruled offside. Cristiano Ronaldo scored the only goal of the match in extra time. Messi was however the joint top-scorer of the tournament along with Cristiano Ronaldo, with 7 goals.
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. 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. This was also Messi's 12th goal in the Champions League that season, which allowed him to tie Ruud Van Nistelrooy's record of 12 goals in a single European Cup season, after it was re-established as the UEFA Champions League, in 1992. The overall record of goals scored in a single European Cup Season, is José Altafini's record of 14 goals, which Messi did however equal in the following season. Messi finished the 2010-11 season with 53 goals and 24 assists in all competitions combined.
2011–12 seasonMessi 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. 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, then the only official competition that remained for him to score in.
After scoring his first goal of an eventual hat-trick in an 8–0 rout against CA Osasuna, Messi produced a 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.
In August, Messi became the second highest goalscorer surpassing László Kubala on 194 goals, being behind only to César Rodríguez on 232 goals in all official competitions.
On 28 September, Messi scored his first two Champions League goals of the season against BATE Borisov, becoming Barcelona's second highest goalscorer in its history, tying László Kubala, at 194 goals in all official competitions. He surpassed that record when he scored two goals against Racing Santander. He became second in Barcelona's La Liga goalscorers list with 132 goals, one more than Kubala. 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.
Messi scored a brace in the Club World Cup Final against Santos FC and was recognized as the man of the match and also awarded the Golden Ball for his performance during the tournament.
UEFA Best Player in Europe Award, beating his FC Barcelona team-mate Xavi Hernández and Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo. Messi won the 2011 FIFA Ballon d'Or, again beating his team-mate Xavi and Cristiano Ronaldo. By winning the FIFA Ballon d'Or again, Messi become the fourth player to win three Ballon d'Ors, after Johan Cruyff, Michel Platini and Marco Van Basten and the second player to win three consecutive Ballon d'Ors, after Michel Platini (although two of his Ballon d'Ors are FIFA Ballon d'Ors, which he won consecutively). Messi also won the IFFHS World's Top Goal Scorer award, with 19 goals in 2011.
On 19 February 2012, Messi, on his 200th La Liga appearance, scored four goals against Valencia CF in a 5–1 win. On 7 March, Messi became the first player to score five goals in an UEFA Champions League match since the tournament's re-establishment in 1992, helping the defending champions Barcelona win 7–1 against Bayer Leverkusen.
On 20 March, Messi scored three goals against Granada CF, making him FC Barcelona's leading goalscorer in official competitions, surpassing club legend César Rodríguez, who had previously held the record with 232.
On 3 April, Messi scored two goals from penalty kicks against Milan in the second leg of the Champions League Quarter-final, allowing him to surpass his personal record, joint with Ruud van Nistelrooy, of 12 goals in a single UEFA Champions League season. These goals allowed him to tie José Altafini's record of 14 goals in a single European Cup season in the 1962–63 season, before the tournament's re-establishment as the UEFA Champions League in 1992. Messi was unable to score in the semifinals, although he provided an assist in the second leg, as Barcelona were knocked out to eventual winners Chelsea. During the second leg match, Messi missed an important penalty, hitting the crossbar. The goal would have put Barcelona ahead on aggregate.
On 11 April, Messi scored his 61th goal against Getafe CF, surpassing Isidro Langara's record of 60 goals in 1933–34, and became the best goalscorer in history in one season in Spain.
On 2 May, Messi scored a hat-trick against Málaga CF surpassing Gerd Müller's record (67 goals in 1972-73) with 68 goals, and thus becoming the best goalscorer in history in one season in Europe. It was the 21st multi-goal game of the season for Messi and his seventh La Liga hat-trick. He then scored four goals on 5 May against RCD Espanyol to take his tally to an unprecedented 72 goals, in the process becoming only the second player to pass 70 goals in a first division season since Archie Stark of Bethlehem Steel in the American Soccer League in 1924–25.
On 25 May, he scored again in the 2012 Copa del Rey Final, helping Barcelona win their 26th Spanish Cup title, and increasing his seasonal goalscoring record to an unmatched 73 goals in all competitions. This was also Guardiola's last match as Barcelona's manager, and the Cup win marked Messi's second Copa del Rey title, after losing the final the year before, as well as his 14th Barcelona trophy during Guardiola's four seasons at the club. Although Barcelona failed to win their 4th consecutive Liga title under Guardiola, finishing runners up to arch-rivals Real Madrid, Messi finished the 2011–12 season as the top goalscorer in La Liga for a second time, with a Liga record of 50 goals. He was the second best assist provider in La Liga that season with 16 assists, after Mesut Özil, who managed 17. He also ended the season as the UEFA Champions' League Top Scorer for a fourth consecutive time, with 14 goals. He was one of the top assist providers of the tournament with 5 assists and finished the season with 73 goals and 29 assists in all club competitions, with more goals and assists than any other player.
2012–13 seasonDuring Barcelona's first game of the season against Real Sociedad, Messi continued his goalscoring run with 2 goals in a 5-1 win at the Camp Nou. Messi added another goal from a penalty in a 3-2 win against rivals Real Madrid in the first leg of the 2012 Supercopa de España in Barcelona on 23 August. He added another brace against Osasuna as Barcelona came from behind away from home to beat them 2-1. Messi added another goal from a free kick in the second leg of the Supercopa de España, as Barcelona, down to ten men, were defeated by Real Madrid on away goals. This marked his 15th goal in the Clasico Real Madrid-Barcelona derby, which made him Barcelona's top scorer in Clasico matches, putting him tied with Raul, behind only Alfredo Di Stefano, with 18 goals. Messi placed second along with Cristiano Ronaldo in the 2012 UEFA Best Player in Europe Award, with 17 votes each. The award was won by Messi's Barcelona team mate Andrés Iniesta. In his third league appearance on 2 September against Valencia CF, Messi assisted the only goal of the match, by team mate Adriano, from a short corner. Messi scored two more goals in a win against Getafe on 15 September and added another brace in his first Champion's League match of the season against Spartak Moscow on 20 September, ending in a 3-2 win to Barcelona, also marking his tenth goal of the season.
International careerOften referred to as an Argentinian-Spanish player, this crossover was brought into sharp focus when in 2004, Lionel was offered the chance to play for the Spanish national U-20 team. He declined the offer given his Argentinian heritage, and was given the opportunity to play for Argentina's U-20 team in a friendly match against Paraguay in June 2004. Messi scored once against Paraguay and twice in friendly against Uruguay in July 2004. In 2005 he was part of a team that finished third in 2005 South American Youth Championship in Colombia. He won the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship in the Netherlands with the team and won the Golden Ball and the Golden Shoe, 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, claimed that Messi had allegedly elbowed defender Vilmos Vanczák, who was tugging Messi's shirt. The decision was contentious and Maradona even claimed the decision was pre-meditated. Messi was later reportedly found weeping in the changing rooms after the decision. 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." He then started his first game for Argentina against Peru, in which he was able to win a crucial penalty for Argentina; after the match Pekerman described Messi as "a jewel". He scored his first goal for Argentina in a friendly match against Croatia on 1 March 2006.
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.
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. Messi scored another last-minute goal on 9 February 2011 against Portugal in a penalty kick which gave his side a 2–1 victory in the friendly match, which was held in Geneva, Switzerland. He had also previously assisted the first goal. His first hat-trick for Albiceleste came against Switzerland, on 29 February 2012 which the game ended 3–1 for Argentina. On 9 June 2012, Messi scored his second international hat-trick in a friendly match against rivals Brazil, including the match winner. The match ended 4–3 to Argentina and Messi was voted man of the match. This brought his international goalscoring tally up to 26 goals in 70 matches, and brought his 2012 tally up to 7 goals in 3 matches. This was also his record-breaking 82nd goal of the season, including all club and international matches. These goals also made him the current fourth highest scorer for the Argentinian National Team. On 7 September, Messi scored his 28th goal for Argentina in a 3-1 victory against Paraguay in a World Cup Qualifying Match, sending them to the top of the CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifying table. This was his 4th goal in the current World Cup Qualifying campaign and his 8th overall in World Cup Qualifying matches, making him the third highest scorer for Argentina in World Cup Qualifying matches. This was also his 10th consecutive goal for Argentina in the last 6 matches and his 9th in 5 matches played in 2012.
2006 World CupThe 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. He witnessed Argentina's opening match victory against Ivory Coast from the substitute's bench. 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. Messi started in Argentina's following 0–0 draw against the Netherlands. 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. Coach José Pekerman left Messi on the bench during the quarter-final match against Germany, which they lost 4–2 on a penalty shootout.
2007 Copa América2007 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.
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.
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. 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. 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. Argentina went on to lose 3–0 to Brazil in the final. Messi was elected young player of the tournament.
2008 Summer OlympicsArgentina in the 2008 Olympics, Barcelona agreed to release him after he held talks with newly appointed coach Pep Guardiola. He joined the Argentina squad and scored the first goal in a 2–1 victory over Ivory Coast. 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. 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.
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. Messi started in Argentina's following 4–1 win against Korea Republic; he played in more of an attacking midfielder and playmaking role under Maradona, and participated in all of the goals of his team, helping 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 World Cup ended for Argentina with a 4–0 loss against Germany in the quarter-finals.
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".
2011 Copa AméricaMessi 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.
Style of playMessi has been compared to compatriot Diego Maradona, due to their similar playing style and stature, which gives him a lower centre of gravity than most players, allowing him to be more agile and change direction more quickly, helping him to evade tackles. His short, strong legs allow him to excel in short bursts of acceleration and his quick feet allow him to keep control of the ball when dribbling at speed. His former FC Barcelona manager, Pep Guardiola, once stated: “Messi is the only player that runs faster with the ball than he does without it.” Like Maradona before him, Messi is dominantly a left footed player. With the outside of his left foot, he usually begins dribbling runs, whilst he uses the inside of his foot to finish and provide passes and assists to team mates.
Messi often undertakes individual dribbling runs towards goal, in particular during counterattacks, usually starting from the halfway line, or the right side of the pitch, although he has also been described as a versatile team player, with good vision, known for his passing and his creative combinations, in particular with Barcelona team mates Xavi and Iniesta. He is also an accurate set piece and penalty kick taker. With regards to his dribbling ability, Maradona has said of Messi: "The ball stays glued to his foot; I’ve seen great players in my career, but I’ve never seen anyone with Messi's ball control." Maradona has stated that he believes Messi to currently be the greatest player in the world.
Tactically, Messi plays a free attacking and occasionally a playmaking role, known for his finishing, pace, dribbling, balance, positioning, vision and passing ability. He is comfortable attacking on either wing or through the centre of the pitch. He began his career as a left-winger and forward, but was later moved onto the right wing by former manager Frank Rijkaard, who noticed that from this position, Messi could cut through the defence into the middle of the pitch more easily, allowing him to curl shots on goal with his left foot, rather than predominantly crossing balls for team mates. He has more recently played in a false 9 role under Guardiola. This role is characterized by Messi's tendency to seemingly be playing as a centre forward, or as a lone striker, although he will often run back into deep positions drawing defenders with him, creating space for wingers, other forwards, and attacking midfielders to make runs, allowing him to provide them with assists or giving him space to begin dribbling runs, score goals or create attacking plays. With the Argentinian National team, Messi usually plays anywhere along the front line. He began as a forward or winger but has also played in a deeper role, in particular under Maradona, in more of an attacking midfield and playmaking role. Messi revealed that he is a fan of the former Argentina playmaker Pablo Aimar.
Personal lifeMessi 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. He has in the past also been linked to the Argentine glamour model Luciana Salazar. 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". He was seen with the girl, Antonella Roccuzzo, at a carnival in Sitges after the Barcelona-Espanyol derby. Roccuzzo is a fellow native of Rosario. On 2 June 2012, Messi assisted and scored a goal in Argentina's 4-0 win against Ecuador in a World Cup 2014 Qualifying match. He celebrated scoring his 23rd goal for Argentina, by placing the ball under his jersey, as his girlfriend is reportedly 12 weeks pregnant. She posted on Twitter that she is expected to give birth in September. Messi has since confirmed that the child, a son, is to be born in October, and that he and his girlfriend plan to name him Thiago.
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 Paraguay's Independiente F.B.C..
According to American writer Wright Thompson, Messi has maintained close ties to Rosario and his family since leaving for Spain, and has gone to great lengths to maintain them. These ties begin with his speech—to this day, Messi speaks Spanish with the distinctive accent of Rosario, even though he has now lived in Spain as long as he has in Rosario. He also keeps in daily contact via phone and text with a small group of confidants from Rosario, most of them fellow members of "The Machine of '87". One time when he was in training with the Argentina national team in Buenos Aires, he made a three-hour trip by car to Rosario immediately after practice to have dinner with his family, spent the night with them, and then returned to Buenos Aires the next day in time for practice. Messi has also kept ownership of his old house in Rosario, although his family no longer lives in it; he maintains a penthouse apartment in an exclusive residential building in which his mother lives, as well as a family compound just outside the city.
CharityIn 2007, Messi established the Leo Messi Foundation, a charity supporting access to education and health care for vulnerable children. In response to Messi's own childhood medical difficulties, the Leo Messi Foundation has offered Argentine children diagnosed with illnesses treatment in Spain and funds covering the transport, hospital and recuperation costs. 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. Messi's UNICEF ambassador activities are aimed at supporting children’s rights. Messi is supported in this by Barcelona, who also have a strong association with UNICEF.
He and Newell's have also ended a long public feud. Messi funded the construction of a dormitory inside Newell's stadium for the club's youth academy, as well as a new gymnasium for the club. For its part, Newell's has begun to embrace its ties with Messi, and plans to issue a special club membership card to Messi's soon-to-be-born son.
WealthIn March 2010, France Football ranked him at the top of its list of the world's richest footballers, ahead of David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo, with £29.6 million (€33 million) in combined income from salaries, bonuses and off-field earnings. His net wealth is estimated at $110 millon.
MediaPro Evolution Soccer 2009 and Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 and is also involved in promotional campaigns for the games. Messi, along with Fernando Torres, is the face of Pro Evolution Soccer 2010, and was also involved in the motion capturing and the trailer. However, in November 2011 Messi was confirmed as the new face of PES's rival football series FIFA with his debut as a cover star of the series coming in 2012's FIFA Street. Messi was also chosen to be on the cover of FIFA 13. Messi is sponsored by the German sportswear company Adidas and features in their television advertisements. In June 2010, Messi also signed a three–year contract with Herbalife which further supports the Leo Messi Foundation.
Messi was named twice in the Time 100, the magazine's annual list of the most influential people in the world, respectively in 2011 and in 2012.
Also in April 2011, Messi launched a Facebook page and within a few hours, his page had attracted more than six million followers. His Facebook page had over 33 million followers in March 2012.
In May 2012, ex-Real Madrid player Royston Drenthe claimed Lionel Messi repeatedly called him "negro" during his time in Spain. A counter statement issued by Barcelona said: "Messi has always shown a maximum respect and sportsmanship towards his rivals, something which has been recognized by his fellow professionals many times.
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