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Source: Flickr: Lionel Messi Player of the Year 2011
Imagine Daniel Day Lewis winning four consecutive Best Actor Oscars or A.R Rahman winning four consecutive Grammys. Difficult, huh, well that’s exactly what this left-footed virtuoso (apologies Daniel) from the Pampas has achieved in his years playing the beautiful game, by winning four consecutive FIFA Footballer of the Year awards. Lionel Messi has truly been leading from the front as the captain of the Argentine national team since August 2011. And he is also a leader where money is concerned after signing £16.3 million a year deal with Barcelona in May 2014. This is more than Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo (£15 million)and thus making Messi the highest-paid player in world football.
Lionel Andres Messi was born on 24 June 1987 in Rosario, in central Argentina, to Jorge Horacio Messi, who was a steel worker in a factory and Celia María Cuccittini, a part-time cleaner. He started playing football at the age of five for his father’s club Grandoli. Then he played for the club Newell’s Old Boys.
The sporting director of FC Barcelona, Carlex Rexach took an interest in Lionel’s career and offered to help when he learnt that Lionel was suffering from growth hormone deficiency. Carlex undertook to bear all the charges of medical treatment if he would move to Spain. Lionel and his father were not able to pay his treatment fee as it was US$ 900 a month, and moved to Spain where he got the required medical treatment and enrolled in La Masia, FC Barcelona’s youth academy.
In his book, A Beautiful Game: Football Through the Eyes of the World’s Greatest Players (Hachette Australia, 2009), author Tom Watt urges Messi to chat about growing up and his tryst with football. “When it came to training with boys my own age, my dad was our coach. By then, I was playing every hour of every day that I could. I’d go to school, come home and, straight away, go out with a ball. Then I might go to training at Grandoli, come home, have something to eat and then be back out in the street again. I was always out in the street. And I was always playing football. I even kept a ball with me when I was indoors. My brothers didn’t have to worry any more: the other kids in the neighbourhood sort of looked after me. They got to know me, got to know what I was like and how I played football. By the time I was eight or nine, I didn’t have to be afraid of being kicked by anybody. I could just play”, says the maestro.
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Messi has dual Spanish and Argentinian citizenship and refused an offer to play for the Spanish under-20 team. In June 2004 Messi got a chance to play for the Argentine under-20 team in a match against Paraguay. When he was just 18 he made his debut in international football, in a match against Hungary, on 17 August 2005. He soon made his presence felt with his attacking and playmaking style, either scoring or assisting other forwards to score against opposing teams.
Messi soon established himself as one of the foremost footballers of his day and finished second to Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo in the 2008 FIFA World Player of the Year rankings. He helped Argentina win the 2008 Olympic soccer title including edging past Nigeria in the finals, thanks to his assist. In early 2009 Messi capped off a spectacular 2008–09 season by helping FC Barcelona capture the club’s first “treble” (winning three major European club titles in one season) – the team won the La Liga championship, the Copa del Rey (Spain’s major domestic cup), and the Champions League title. During the 2009–10 season Messi scored 34 goals as Barcelona became La Liga champions. As Europe’s leading scorer in 2010, he won the Golden Shoe award, and was named the 2010 world player of the year (the award was then renamed the FIFA Ballon d’Or). Starting in 2009 he has pocketed the Ballon d’Or award four times. Messi also received the 2010, 2011, and 2012 European Golden Shoe award. Ask the poor Getafe players mesmerized by the magic of this nimble-footed genius as he danced past six defenders to score a Maradonaesque goal. And just to complete the deja vu he has also got his own version of the Hand of God goal in La Liga versus Espanyol. He replaced Sergio Batista as captain of the Argentinian national team in August 2011.
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He is nicknamed Messiah, Little flea, Capitaine or Messidona for his brilliant flair and uncanny resemblance to Maradona. He has a year-old son named Thiago with his partner Antonella Roccuzzo. Messi is into philanthropy as well. He handsomely contributes for the Leo Messi foundation in association with Herbalife. He has been a UNICEF Goodwill ambassador supporting children’s education along with health care and has donated a sum of 600,000 euros for the Victor Villela Children Hospital in his hometown of Rosario.
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Therefore, Lionel Messi is considered to be a great human being , a football legend and an idol for millions of sports fans worldwide.