Lionel Messi: The world at his feet…wins Ballon D’ Or for record five times.
Messi, is an Argentinean and unarguably the best football player in the world today. His rise in the game of football is phenomenal. He has speed, dribbling and shooting skills. But despite so many individual virtues, he is also a remarkable team player. Pele and Maradona are considered by many to be the best players ever to have kicked a ball and there are those that believe Messi can go on to claim a position alongside these players in soccer’s pantheon of greats. The Argentinean joined Barcelona at the age of 13, with the club paying for treatment on a growth hormone deficiency that threatened to stunt his progress. What a shrewd investment that now looks. This is also made possible by Messi’s determination to succeed in life and football in spite of the challenges of his health at the early stage. This aspect is what trumps him up as Nowchild role-model.
Messi’s footballing career started in 1995 at Newell’s Old Boys, where he played until the year 2000. Move from Newell’s: He started playing for Argentinean club Newell’s Old Boys at the age of eight after turning out for a few years with his local team. His father was a factory worker and his mother a cleaner and they were unable to pay the money required to remedy his growth hormone deficiency. This was also the case with River Plate which was interested in signing the player. Barcelona, then under the stewardship of long time club servant Carles Rexach, pounced with the promise of paying the US$800 a month required to pay the bills. It is not an exaggeration to say that the player’s destiny and the club’s future were redefined.
Messi would excel in the youth and B teams before making his first team debut against Barca’s city rivals Espanyol. His first goal would follow against Albacete at the age of 17 years, 10 months and seven days, making him the club’s youngest ever La Liga scorer. Messi made spectacular progress at each of the different age levels, climbing through the ranks of the different youth teams and then Barça C, followed by Barça B and the first team in record time. In the 2003-2004 season, when he was still only 16, Messi made his first team debut in a friendly with Porto that marked the opening of the new Dragao stadium. The following championship-winning season, Messi made his first appearance in an official match on October 16, 2004, in Barcelona’s derby win against Espanyol at the Olympic Stadium (0-1).
With several first team players seriously injured, the services of several reserve team players were called upon, and Messi became a regular feature of Barça squads. On May 1, 2005, he became the youngest player ever to score a league goal for FC Barcelona – against Albacete when Messi was only 17 years, 10 months and 7 days old. That record would eventually be beaten by Bojan.
At the Under 20 World Cup in Holland, Messi not only won the title with Argentina, but was also the leading goalscorer and was voted best player in the tournament. Aged 18 years, he had become one of the hottest properties in the world game. Shortly after, he made his first full international appearance in a friendly against Hungary.
His breakthrough as a player came in the 2005-06 season, starting with an amazing performance in the Joan Gamper Trophy match against Juventus. He was also outstanding at the Santiago Bernabéu, in Barcelona’s unforgettable 3-0 win, and also at Stamford Bridge, in the Champions League match against Chelsea. Injury kept him sidelined for much of the latter stage of the season. Messi played a total of 17 league games, 6 in the Champions League and 2 in the Copa del Rey. Messi scored eight goals.
The following season Messi moved up a gear and astounded the world with goals such as the one he scored against Getafe in the King’s Cup. In the 2006/07 season, and even though the team didn’t win any titles, the Argentine was second in the FIFA World Player awards and third in the Golden Ball. He continued to develop in the 2007/08 campaign, when he scored 16 goals and gave 10 assists in the 40 games he played in. In 2008, Leo Messi was runner up in the FIFA WORLD PLAYER AWARD for the second season in a row. In the 2008/09 season, and now without Ronaldinho alongside him, Messi continued to be the main star of the Barça line up. He managed to stay injury free all season, and played 51 games, scoring 38 goals. The Argentinian was also fundamental in the two finals, scoring Barça’s second goals in both. El año 2009 ganó el FIFA World Player y Balón de Or.
He was the league’s top scorer in the 2009-10 season and equalled Ronaldo’s historic total of 34 goals (96-97). He scored the goal against Estudiantes de La Plata that gave Barça the Club’s first World Club Cup. But without settling for that, the Argentinian went even further in the 2010/11 season, scoring no fewer than 53 official goals, a Spanish record only bettered by Cristiano Ronaldo (that very same season). Messi, like in Rome, played a vital role in the Champions League final at Wembley were scored a scorcher from outside the area to put his team ahead. Messi also consolidated his place in the national side, now having played at two World Cups (2006 and 2010) and Copa America (2007) for Argentina. In 2008 he also went to the Olympic Games in Beijing, where his country won gold.
Messi is an excellent, sensational, unique player. He is astoundingly creative, has amazing individual skill and is able to constantly put his rivals at unease. A natural left footer, he is stunningly versatile, and can play either in the middle or on whichever of the wings required, although it is out on the right that he feels most comfortable.
He may not be very tall, but his speed and physique enable him to cope with even the toughest of defenders. He is surprisingly strong, and can hold on to the ball in style, as if it were stuck to his feet. There is simply nobody like him anywhere else in the game. He is also a specialist at all dead ball situations, especially free kicks and penalties. His cold blood and ability to take on responsibilities are other virtues that make Leo Messi simply the best footballer on the planet. He has won the highest number of group and individual awards in football. Messi…the world at his feet!
Editor’s Note: This article was written and published in Nowchild Magazine in 2011. It has just been re-edited and published to accommodate his record fifth Ballon D’ Or award – won today, January 11, 2016. Congrats, Messi!