Barcelona and Argentina legend Lionel Messi turns 30 on Saturday and it’s safe to say that he’s one of the most accomplished individuals in the world at his age, let alone in football.
His prolific goalscoring for club and country has made him a global superstar while he’s been at the centre of a glorious era for Barcelona.
Messi perhaps hasn’t enjoyed the kind of international success a talent like his almost seems entitled to but he has lost four major finals with Argentina.
The video below looks at the little maestro’s remarkable achievements in his career..
As Barcelona and Argentina superstar Lionel Messi enters his fourth decade, one question remains: what else is there for him to win?
The bantam boy from Rosario has developed into one of football’s greatest ever players and achievers, tearing up the record books with his 500 goals for and 17 major trophies with Barca.
While contemporaries and past greats can boast similar records, we must remember that in Messi’s case, all this has been accomplished before the age of 30 – a milestone he reaches on Saturday.
Messi arrived in Catalonia as a prodigious 13-year-old, a junior sensation with hometown club Newell’s Old Boys, after Barca director Charly Rexach proffered a contract written on a napkin.
Initially stricken by homesickness and hampered by a growth hormone deficiency which Newell’s had neglected to treat, Messi let his football do the talking, running rings around his titled team-mates in training at La Masia.
His predecessor as Nou Camp headliner, the abundantly talented Ronaldinho, took a shine to the shy boy and encouraged then boss Frank Rijkaard to promote him to the first team in 2005.
Messi never looked back. Once Barca had swerved a big-money bid from Inter Milan, the 18-year-old striker began to steadily lock down a starting place and was unfortunate to miss the Champions League final victory over Arsenal in Paris.
That disappointment behind him, he spearheaded Barca’s domestic revival under Pep Guardiola. He had taken the number 10 shirt from the departed Ronaldinho in the summer of 2008 and the season that followed ended with 38 goals in all competitions and a league, cup and European treble.
Now an immovable object in the starting XI, under Guardiola playing mainly on the right wing, Messi improved his already fantastic goal-scoring record to establish himself as that most modern of footballers – the false nine.
Four consecutive Ballon d’Or awards went his way as he carried Barca into the post-Guardiola era and in 2011-12 he notched an eye-watering 73 times – not enough to stop Real Madrid winning LaLiga.
A succession of injuries and doubts about his long-term future in Barcelona meant performances dipped before the 2014 World Cup, but in Rio Messi fired Argentina towards the final.
Heartache followed as Germany outclassed the Albiceleste, with whom Messi has failed to win a trophy across his 118 caps.
Such has been the level of his frustration over a drought of honours on the international stage, Messi briefly turned his back on his national team last year, only to reverse his decision inside two months.
When he has faced grievance and irritation in Spain, there has typically been one man to blame. If Barca wobble, it is usually because Messi’s fiercest foe Cristiano Ronaldo is in his pomp.
Without the prolific Portuguese, Messi would be the undisputed king of Spain, but it has been in battles between the pair – at least twice annually in El Clasico – when the latter has shown any weakness.
His rivalry with Ronaldo has, however, spurred him on to keep pushing the boundaries at Barca and there is a sense Messi will remain at the Nou Camp until he has seen off the threat once and for all.
Beyond his ongoing mission to taste glory with Argentina, Messi must know that prizes twinkle in the Premier League, where there are clubs including Manchester City and Chelsea who could afford him.
He has recently stated his intention to retire with the Blaugrana, but for the man nicknamed ‘La Pulga’ – or ‘The Flea’ in English – there ought to be another itch to scratch beyond the limits of Barcelona.
Provided by Press Association Sport
Barcelona and Argentina striker Lionel Messi turns 30 on Saturday.
His prolific goalscoring for club and country has made him a global superstar, but there is more to the man from Rosario than meets the eye.
Here are five things you might not know about the mercurial Messi.
A NITTY NICKNAME
‘La Pulga’ is not a familiar term to most British football fans but in Spain and Argentina the moniker is synonymous with Messi.
It means ‘The Flea’ as the diminutive forward is a constant pest during games and, as the opposition try and fail to swat him away, he is likely to bite them at any time.
Messi stands at 5ft 7in partly because of a growth hormone deficiency, with which he was diagnosed when he was 11 and already a star youth performer with Newell’s Old Boys.
The Argentinian club were unable to provide serious funding for his treatment and it was not until he sealed a switch to Barca in 2001 that he was able to take regular injections of hormones to aid his development.
Messi has numerous tattoos, including a rose window inspired by Barcelona’s famous Sagrada Familia church on his right arm, as well as his mother’s face on his shoulder blade and the hand prints of his first child Thiago on his calf, among other adornments.
In early 2019 a new theme park will open in Nanjing, China. There will be 81,000 square metres of football-based attractions with an intention to “immerse visitors in Messi’s universe.”
Yes, the Messi Experience Park is in development but Chinese day-trippers cannot expect to see too much of the Barca star around the site. “Hopefully they will feel that I am around when visiting the park,” he said during a trip to China earlier this month.
DO CRY FOR ME, ARGENTINA
Despite his innumerable successes with Barcelona, Messi has experienced little real joy across his 118 appearances for Argentina. His international career started well enough as he won the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in 2005 and an Olympic gold medal three years later.
But he has twice tasted defeat in the Copa America final and was on the losing side when Argentina met Germany in the 2014 World Cup final. Now, even at 30, he will still have opportunities to guide La Albiceleste to silverware.
Provided by Press Association Sport