Messi's Career In Photos
Looking back at his career, Lionel Messi must sometimes marvel at the stupendous fairy tale of his own life. Born to two factory workers in a town known (before Messi) for industry alone, he has risen into a stratosphere unimaginable to most – certainly to a quiet, diminutive boy from Roasario, Argentina.
We take a look here at his life in pictures, from his humble origins to his current status as perhaps the greatest player of all time.
The man we now know simply as "Messi" was born into this world Lionel Andrés Messi on June 24th, 1987 in Rosario, Argentina. He was the third child of four, which makes us think his older siblings must have been continually angry about the relentless nutmegs from their baby brother. His father (Jorge Messi) ran a steel factory and his mother (Celia Cuccuttini) worked in a magnet manufacturing workshop. It is a safe bet that they have not retained these careers. Unless their son is very mean.
Messi grew up in a footballing family. From an early age, he played with his older brothers, Rodrigo and Matias (who became professionals themselves). At age four, he joined a local club – Grandoli – coached by his father. He was short for his age. And still is. And it still doesn't matter.
Messi moved on to play for Newell's Old Boys, a Rosario-based club. He played for the club for six years and scored almost 500 goals as a member of a nearly unbeatable youth side nicknamed "The Machine of '87" (based on their birth year). Clearly this was the one and only time he sat the bench.
Despite being diagnosed with a growth hormone deficiency (which cosy $1,000 or more per month to have treated), Messi received a trial with Barcelona in September 2000. It turns out, Barcelona almost didn't sign Messi. After first team director Charly Rexach saw him play, he was convinced. But the board of directors weren't so sure. When Messi's family asked for a commitment, all Rexach was able to offer was a contract drawn up on a paper napkin. Apparently that was enough.
Messi was the star of Barcelona's "Baby Dream Team." Along with Gerard Pique and Cesc Fabregas, Messi was part of the most successful youth side the club had ever seen (and perhaps ever will see). He was the youth club's top scorer in 2002-2003 with 36 goals in 30 games. His pace hasn't much diminished since then.
After finding success with FC Barcelona's youth side, Messi made a shocking rise through the club ranks between 2003-2005 – debuting for a record five teams in a single season. He was promptly called up to the first team for his debut during a 2004 international break when Barca's ranks were depleted.
After Messi trained with the senior squad, then-Barcelona-star Ronaldinho told the world that he thought Messi would become an even better player than himself.
Upon Ronaldinho's departure from Barcelona, Messi was given the #10 shirt to wear. He was quick to pay back the honor, helping Barcelona win the first treble in the history of Spanish football.
Messi reached the peak of his abilities in an incredible year, 2012. He became the top goal-scorer in Barcelona's history at 24 years old, overtaking a 57-year-old record set by César Rodríguez.
Despite a strong performance throughout a 2014 World Cup in which he served as Argentina's captain, Messi was unable (once again) to bring home the trophy. Argentina fell to Germany in the final.
A turbulent 2016 has seen dramatic highs and lows for Messi. He started the year winning another treble for Barcelona, cementing his legacy as one of the all-time greats. However, he was unable to bring home the trophy at the 2016 Copa America for Argentina - and announced his retirement from international football coming out of that tournament. He subsequently reversed curse on this decision. The question remains, will we see a trophy for Argentina in Russia in 2018?