Lionel Messi is considered by many to be one of the greatest soccer players of all time. The Argentine forward has shattered records and won countless trophies during his illustrious career. This comprehensive review takes an in-depth look at Messi’s journey from child prodigy to global superstar.
Messi’s rise to fame began as a young boy in Argentina. His supernatural talent was evident from a very early age. However, his small stature almost prevented him from achieving his dreams. Fortunately, Barcelona took a chance on the diminutive striker and the rest is history.
Over the past two decades, Messi has cemented himself as a Barcelona legend. He has spearheaded the club’s most successful era, winning a record 34 trophies. On an individual level, Messi has claimed a record six Ballon d’Or awards and scored over 750 senior career goals.
This article will chronicle Messi’s background, early career, successes with Barcelona, achievements with Argentina, individual honors, playing style, legacy and more. Continue reading for a comprehensive review of Messi’s historic soccer journey.
Background and Early Life
Leo Messi was born in Rosario, Argentina on June 24, 1987. He developed a passion for soccer at a young age and idolized fellow Argentine great Diego Maradona. Messi joined local club Newell’s Old Boys at age eight where his supreme natural ability became evident.
Displaying Greatness from an Early Age
Coaches and scouts took notice of Messi’s ball control, dribbling skills and ability to beat defenders one-on-one. At age nine, he was already playing above his age group. It was apparent Messi had the raw talent to become a special player. However, his small, diminutive stature was a concern.
Growth Hormone Deficiency
When Messi was 11, he was diagnosed with growth hormone deficiency. This medical condition stunted his growth, leaving him much smaller than teammates his age. River Plate showed interest but declined to pay for Messi’s medical treatment. Fortunately, Barcelona agreed to sign Messi and cover his hormone growth treatments.
This proved to be a monumental moment in soccer history. Without Barcelona’s intervention, the world may never have seen Messi’s greatness.
Early Career at Barcelona
In 2001, Messi moved to Barcelona along with his family. He joined the club’s prestigious youth academy, La Masia. Messi continued to impress coaches with his raw talent and audacious style. By age 16 he was training with the senior squad and making cameo appearances.
Debut and First Contract
Messi made his official first team debut in 2004 at age 17, becoming the youngest player to represent Barcelona in an official match. Later that year, he signed his first professional contract and secured Spanish citizenship. This allowed Barcelona to field their new star acquisition more regularly.
Prime Years Dominating with Barcelona (2005-2014)
The 2005-06 season marked Messi’s first as a regular starter. He announced himself on the world stage by leading Barcelona to their first Champions League trophy in 14 years. For his efforts, Messi earned his first Ballon d’Or nomination.
Over the next decade, Messi would lead Barcelona to unprecedented success both in Spain and Europe. His combination of outrageous natural talent and work ethic saw him shatter records.
La Liga Dominance
In Messi’s first nine seasons as a regular, Barcelona won an astonishing six La Liga titles and two Spanish Cups. He won the first of his record six Ballon d’Or trophies in 2009. Their iconic attacking trio of Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar was virtually unstoppable.
Four Champions League Crowns
Messi played a pivotal role in all four of Barcelona’s Champions League victories in 2006, 2009, 2011 and 2015. His mesmerizing dribbling and finishing ability made him virtually unplayable in Europe’s biggest tournament.
By the end of the 2014 season, Messi had already broken several prominent records:
- Most La Liga goals in a season (50)
- Most goals/assists combined in a La Liga season (59)
- Most hat-tricks in La Liga history (28)
- Barcelona’s all-time leading scorer
His consistency and dominance in this era was unparalleled in soccer history. Messi collected an astonishing four straight Ballon d’Or awards from 2009-2012.
Continued Brilliance in His Thirties (2015-Present)
Remarkably, Messi maintained his elite form despite entering his thirties in 2017. He continued racking up incredible statistics for Barcelona and challenging for major trophies.
La Liga’s Greatest Ever
On April 2, 2017 Messi scored his 500th career Barcelona goal at just 29 years old. A few weeks later, he broke another milestone by scoring his 50th goal of the 2016-17 season. This made him the first player ever to score 50+ goals in both La Liga and the Champions League.
By the time Messi turned 32 in 2019, he increased his Ballon d’Or collection to six, the most of any player in history. That year he led La Liga in both goals (36) and assists (15). Messi surpassed Xavi as Barcelona’s all-time appearance leader in October 2019.
Shattering New Ground
In late 2019, Messi claimed an unprecedented sixth Ballon d’Or trophy. He equaled longstanding rival Cristiano Ronaldo’s tally of five. A few months later, the Argentine passed 700 career goals in a win over Atlético Madrid.
Messi continued rewriting the history books into his mid-thirties. He finally led Argentina to a major international trophy at the 2021 Copa America. This victory came on the heels of heartbreakingly close near-misses in major finals. Winning this elusive trophy helped cement Messi’s status as soccer’s undisputed G.O.A.T.
Notable Statistics and Records
Messi’s incredible statistics and trophy haul support the argument that he’s the greatest to ever play the game. Let’s look at some of his eye-popping numbers:
- 750+ goals – Messi has scored over 750 senior career goals for club and country. He has the most goals ever for a single club (Barcelona).
- Ballon D’Or (6) – Messi holds the record for most Ballon d’Or trophies with six. He had a four year consecutive streak from 2009-2012.
- La Liga Titles (10) – Messi has won a record 10 La Liga titles with Barcelona, including four in a row twice (2009-2012, 2015-2018).
- Champions League Titles (4) – Messi has won four Champions League titles, more than any other player except Paco Gento (6).
- Club Goals in a Year (91) – Messi set a world record by scoring 91 goals for Barcelona during the 2012 calendar year.
- La Liga Goals in a Season (50) – Messi holds the La Liga record for most goals in a season with 50 in 2011-12.
- La Liga Hat-Tricks (36) – Messi has scored 36 career La Liga hat-tricks, more than any other player by a wide margin.
- Club trophies (34) – Messi has won 34 trophies with Barcelona, a record for a player with a single club.
Playing Style and Characteristics
Messi’s low center of gravity, quick feet, ball control and dribbling ability make him almost impossible to defend one-on-one. His vision, passing and finishing skills are also world class for both Barcelona and Argentina. Let’s examine some of the traits that make Messi so great.
Agility and Balance
Despite his small stature, Messi has tremendous balance and agility. His tight ball control allows him to change direction unexpectedly and lose defenders. Messi combines this with explosive bursts of pace to weave through challenges.
Although known for scoring goals, Messi is an equally gifted playmaker. His incisive through balls and passing accuracy unlock defenses. Messi seems to intuitively understand teammates’ positioning and movement before they make runs.
Messi is almost equally dominant scoring or passing with either foot. This makes him extremely unpredictable for defenders and goalkeepers. He can curl shots into the corner of the net from impossible angles.
Free Kick Specialist
Messi consistently ranks among the most dangerous free kick takers in soccer. His ability to alter pace, spin and trajectory makes stopping his free kicks nearly impossible.
Work Ethic and Leadership
Despite his natural gifts, Messi’s work ethic, determination and leadership skills are also immense. His commitment to excellence elevated both himself and Barcelona over the years.
Argentina National Team Career
Messi’s record with the Argentine national team did not match his Barcelona successes until later in his career. He led Argentina to international glory by winning the 2021 Copa America.
Messi represented Argentina at various youth levels, leading the Under-20 squad to a World Cup championship in 2005. At age 19, he earned his first senior cap and scored his first Argentina goal vs. Croatia in 2006.
Messi was part of the Argentina squads that lost to Germany in the quarterfinals of both the 2006 and 2010 World Cup tournaments. They also fell short against Chile in the final of the 2015 and 2016 Copa America.
2014 World Cup Run
Messi finally reached a World Cup final in 2014, although Argentina ultimately fell to Germany. Messi earned the Golden Ball as the tournament’s best player that year.
Copa America Glory in 2021
After painful near-misses, Messi led Argentina to a long-awaited senior trophy by winning the 2021 Copa America on home soil at age 34. Messi scored four goals and had five assists, earning Player of the Tournament honors. Winning this elusive trophy helped solidify his legacy.
Legacy as an All-Time Great
Most soccer experts and analysts consider Messi either the greatest player ever or at minimum, in the conversation. Let’s examine the factors that have shaped Messi’s legacy:
Titles and Trophies
Messi has won more club honors than any other player from a major European league. He’s led his club to 34 trophies including 10 league titles. His four Champions League crowns are surpassed only by Francisco Gento.
No player has come close to matching Messi’s consistency and individual honours like six Ballon d’Or awards and six European Golden Shoes. Pele and Maradona have career stats that stack up but neither dominated their era in the manner Messi did.
Style and Skillset
Messi’s combination of technical brilliance, work ethic, humility and clean image has helped build his brand beyond just wins and goals. His style epitomizes the natural beauty of soccer that attracts so many fans globally.
Importance to the Game
Arguably more than any previous icon like Pele or Maradona, Messi’s career and fame have coincided with soccer’s explosion in popularity around the world. His Barcelona team helped set new standards for excellence in the Champions League era.
While his international career was less prolific until 2021, leading Argentina to a Copa America title helped remove the only remaining question mark from Messi’s resume. He has a strong case as the definitive G.O.A.T.
Messi’s Future Outlook
At age 35, Messi is approaching the twilight of his illustrious career. Let’s examine what potentially lies ahead as his historic run nears its conclusion:
Barcelona Return in 2023?
After an emotional departure in 2021, Messi’s contract with PSG expires in 2023. There is strong mutual interest in a Barcelona return to finish his playing days. This would allow Messi to retire at his boyhood club.
World Cup 2022 in Qatar
The 2022 World Cup will likely represent Messi’s final chance to win the tournament and cement his legacy. Argentina are among the favourites which could lead to a storybook ending.
Life After Retirement
When Messi does hang up his boots, he will aim to follow the examples of Pele and Beckham by remaining involved as a global ambassador. His name recognition and business ventures should keep him very busy.
Given Messi’s obsessive devotion to the sport, coaching or managing could appeal post-retirement. If he goes this route, expect Messi to work his way up through the Barcelona system once again.
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Regardless of what transpires in his final playing years, Messi’s status as an all-time legend is etched in stone. It has been a privilege for fans worldwide to witness his incredible journey from child prodigy to larger-than-life icon.
Frequently Asked Questions About Messi’s Career
Messi’s historic soccer journey has sparked endless debates among fans over the years. Let’s examine some frequently asked questions regarding his career achievements and legacy:
Is Messi truly the greatest player ever?
This comes down partly to personal preference when comparing to Pele and Maradona. But by dominating soccer for over 15 years in the Champions League era, winning 34 club trophies and six Ballons d’Or, Messi has a rock-solid case as the G.O.A.T.
How important was it that Barcelona signed him as a child?
This proved absolutely pivotal to Messi’s entire career. Any other club would likely not have paid for his hormone treatments. Without Barcelona’s intervention, the world never witnesses Messi’s greatness.
Is Messi big enough and strong enough for elite soccer?
Despite standing only 5’7”, Messi has superhuman balance and core strength to shield the ball and absorb challenges. His low center of gravity helps him change direction and accelerate quicker than nearly any opponent.
Does Messi perform at the same level for Argentina?
Until the 2021 Copa America triumph, Messi’s Argentina career was the one blotch on his resume. He does not have the same quality teammates for Argentina, and he’s not quite able to carry the team like at Barca. But winning the Copa helped erase doubts.
Why does Messi remain with Barcelona for his whole career?
A combination of loyalty to his boyhood club that funded his treatments, the team tailored perfectly to maximize his talents, and a strong cultural connection keep Messi at Barcelona until the end.
Can Messi be considered the GOAT without a World Cup title?
While a World Cup would strengthen his legacy, Messi does not necessarily require it to be the consensus GOAT. He was unlucky to play in an era with an all-time great French generation that knocked him out in 2006 and 2018.
Lionel Messi’s legendary soccer career continues to captivate fans as he approaches the final chapters. He will likely go down as the greatest to ever play the beautiful game. Messi’s supernatural talent and work ethic have allowed him to shatter records for over a decade. Winning the 2021 Copa America has erased the one remaining void in his otherwise impeccable resume.
It has been an absolute privilege for soccer fans worldwide to witness Messi’s historic journey unfold in real time. No player has ever dominated the sport as consistently as Messi at his peak. By leading Barcelona to unprecedented success and claiming six Ballons d’Or, Messi’s legacy as an all-time great is set in stone. Off the pitch, his clean image and positive cultural impact have only added to his status as a living icon.
Although his remaining playing years are dwindling, Messi still has time to add to his long list of accomplishments. Winning the 2022 World Cup would provide a storybook ending to his fairytale career. Regardless of what’s next, he will forever be remembered as one of soccer’s brightest stars.