Lionel Messi Profile

Name Lionel Messi
Born Jun 24, 1987
Age 33 years
Birthplace Rosario, Argentina
Height 5ft 7ins

With more goals than Pele, six Ballon d'Or awards - the most in its history - and Barcelona's most decorated player in its history, Lionel Messi is one of soccer's greatest to have graced the pitch.

Lionel Messi is an Argentine soccer player who is the current captain of Barcelona and his national side. He is regarded as one of the greatest soccer players to have ever graced the game and is the only six-time winner of the Ballon d'Or and European Golden Shoe.

Messi has spent all of his professional career at Barcelona and since 2004, he has won 34 major trophies with the Catalan club, including four UEFA Champions League titles. He is the all-time top goalscorer in La Liga, with his nearest rival being Cristiano Ronaldo in second place with 311 goals - more than 140 behind Messi. The Argentine is also the record-holder for most hat-tricks in La Liga history with 36.

With the national side, Messi is Argentina's all-time top goalscorer. He began his international career in 2005 and in doing so became the youngest player to represent the South American country at the age of 17.

Since being named captain in 2011, Messi has led Argentina to three consecutive finals from 2014 to 2016, although he has never lifted a major trophy, with defeats in the 2014 FIFA World Cup to Germany and back-to-back losses in the Copa America.

Being one of the most famous faces in soccer, Messi has been sponsored by Adidas during most of his career. From 2009 to 2014, he was the highest paid player in the world according to France Football before ranking top in Forbes' 2019 Highest Paid Athlete of the Year list. In 2020, Messi followed in the footsteps of Ronaldo by becoming the second soccer player to pass $1billion earnings in his career.

Lionel Messi lifts the Champions League trophy in 2011

A Barcelona legend

Having progressed quickly through the ranks in the academy, Messi was handed his debut as a substitute during a pre-season friendly against Jose Mourinho's Porto in 2003.
 
After playing in the Barcelona B and C teams, Messi made his competitive debut for Barcelona in October 2004 after senior players such as Ronaldinho pleaded with manager Frank Rijkaard to get him involved in the first-team set-up. 

The Brazilian assisted Messi's first goal in May 2005 against Albacete, which made him the youngest-ever scorer for Barca at the age of 17. That record has since been broken by Ansu Fati. Following the decline of Ronaldinho and several other key players, at the age of 20, Messi became Barcelona’s new star after standout performances domestically, including a hat-trick against Real Madrid.

In 2007, he finished third in the Ballon d'Or, with Ronaldo runner-up to AC Milan’s Kaka. In 2008/09, Messi enjoyed a fine partnership with Thierry Henry and Samuel Eto'o, with the trio scoring 100 goals between them in all competitions. It was a record number of goals scored for Barcelona at the time and Messi contributed with 38 goals from 51 appearances. 

In Pep Guardiola's debut season as Barcelona manager, Messi helped guide the club to a historic treble by winning La Liga, the Copa del Rey and UEFA Champions League. Messi also scored the second goal in the Champions League final against Manchester United.

The Argentine outjumped Rio Ferdinand before famously running off with one of his boots in his hand after it had come off while heading the ball. Messi ended up the top goalscorer in the European competition that season. His performances were rewarded with a contract extension until 2016 with a €250million buyout clause. 

Things continued to go from strength to strength in a side which saw Xavi and Andres Iniesta's link-up play compliment the style of Messi in attacking midfield. Pedro Rodriguez and David Villa replaced departing duo Henry and Eto'o while Sergio Busquets completed one of soccer’s greatest sides of all-time.

The team were triumphant in Europe two years later with a 3-1 victory over Manchester United and Messi was once again the tournament's top goalscorer with 12 goals. 

In 2012, Messi became the club's all-time leading goalscorer at the age of 24 and would finish the campaign with 73 goals in all competitions - a record which surpassed the previous highest tally of 67 in a single season by Gerd Muller in the 1972/73 Bundesliga. Barcelona would also match the 100-point La Liga record of Real Madrid in 2013. 

Lionel Messi holds the Champions League trophy aloft after FC Barcelona win the tournament in 2015

Another historic treble followed in 2014/15 under Luis Enrique. This was the season of 'MSN' - Messi, Suarez and Neymar. The trio's chemistry was as strong on the pitch as it was off the pitch, with the forward's scoring guiding Barcelona to La Liga, Copa del Rey and UEFA Champions League triumphs. This was Messi's fourth European crown.

In 2018/19, Messi won his 10th league title at the Camp Nou but performances started to decline, especially in Europe, where they had surrendered a 3-0 lead against Liverpool in the Champions League quarter-final.

Things went from bad to worse the following year with an 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich. The tie was a one-leg affair due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which had extended the competition into the late summer.

During the summer of 2020, Messi handed in a transfer request after sharing his dissatisfaction of Barcelona's progress on the pitch and behind the scenes. Despite his intentions, Catalonia president Quim Torra revealed he would only leave the club if his $825million clause was triggered.

There were therefore two options for Messi, who still wanted to be released from his contract: go to court or remain a Barcelona player. He chose the latter. 

Head-to-head: Messi vs Ronaldo

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo during El Clasico

Messi's biggest rival from the same generation is Ronaldo. The pair are well-known for their battle for dominance while Ronaldo was at Los Blancos. They have won over 60 major trophies combined and have both scored more than 700 goals during their careers.

Messi has the upperhand when it comes to Ballon d'Ors, having won a record-breaking six compared to Ronaldo's five. When it comes to continental success, Ronaldo has five Champions League titles with three successive triumphs under Zinedine Zidane in 2016, 2017 and 2018. Messi, meanwhile, has lifted Europe's ultimate prize on four occasions.

The pair have faced off 35 times, with Messi being on the winning side on 16 occasions with 22 goals scored to Ronaldo's 10 victories and 19 goals. Former Barcelona striker Gary Lineker is one of many to prefer Messi's natural talent over the athleticism of Ronaldo when it comes to deciding who the 'GOAT' [Greatest of All Time] is. 

Speaking about the debate, he said: "I am a huge fan of Ronaldo too, but if you're talking about the best player ever, there shouldn't even be a debate that it is Messi. That's just my opinion, but it's not even close for me."

Despite this view, Ronaldo has achieved more on the international scene, leading Portugal to UEFA European Championship glory in 2018 and UEFA Nations League triumph 12 months later while Messi is yet to win anything for Argentina.

When it comes to social media, there is no dispute, with Ronaldo having more than 240 million followers on Instagram compared to Messi's 170 million. The Portugese forward is the most followed person on Instagram, ahead of Kim Kardashian, Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande and Dwayne Johnson.

Performances with his national side

Despite being Argentina's all-time top goalscorer, Messi has been unable to lead his nation to glory in the FIFA World Cup or Copa America - something which often sees him compared less favourably to Diego Maradona, who guided his country to World Cup glory in 1986. Messi has, however, led Argentina to three consecutive finals.

Lionel Messi of Argentina during the 2014 World Cup

After yet another penalty shoot-out defeat to Chile in the 2016 Copa America final, Messi announced his international retirement. Following words from Argentina's president Mauricio Macri and a national call for him to return, Messi's retirement lasted just one week.

In 2018, Argentina were eliminated by eventual champions France in the World Cup round of 16, while they finished third in Copa America's 2019 installment. Messi received a $50,000 fine by CONMEBOL for commenting on the performance of the referee during their semi-final defeat to Brazil, which saw the Argentine sent off. 

Personal life

Lionel Messi and his partner pictured on a red carpet at a UEFA event

Messi has been in a relationship with Antonella Roccuzzo since 2008 and got married in 2017. Together they have three sons: Thiago, Mateo and Ciro, and Messi has Thiagos's name and handprints tattooed on his left leg.

His father Jorge has a big influence in helping him make business decisions while his eldest brother is in charge of the public relations aspect and arranges his day-to-day schedule. His mother, meanwhile, fronts the Leo Messi Foundation with his other brother Matias.

The soccer star came under fire in 2013 after being investigated for tax fraud. Lionel and his father were found guilty and handed a 21-month suspended sentence. Messi voluntarily paid 5.1million and the pair were later forced to pay €1.7million €1.4million in fines, respectively.

Appearing at court, Messi blamed his father for the dealings, stating that he leaves Jorge and his lawyers to look after his finances while he focuses his efforts on the soccer pitch.

Lionel Messi's net worth

Messi is currently the highest-earning soccer player in the world, with his current Barcelona deal seeing him pick up an annual salary of $80million, although he is in the final year of his contract. 

In 2020, he ranked at No. 6 for the Celebrity Top 100 earners and No. 3 in the World’s Highest Paid Athletes List by Forbes, sitting behind Roger Federer and Ronaldo. 

In the previous 12 months, Messi generated an estimated $33million through endorsement deals with long-term sponsor Adidas as well as Pepsi, Mastercard and Huawei.

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