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Lionel Messi
Messi with Argentina at the 2022 FIFA World Cup
Personal information
Full name Lionel Andrés Messi[1]
Date of birth (1987-06-24) 24 June 1987 (age 37)[1]
Place of birth Rosario, Argentina
Height 1.70 m (5 ft 7 in)[1]
Position(s) Forward
Team information
Current team
Inter Miami
Number 10
Youth career
1992–1995 Grandoli
1995–2000 Newell's Old Boys
2000–2003 Barcelona
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
2003–2004 Barcelona C 10 (5)
2004–2005 Barcelona B 22 (6)
2004–2021 Barcelona 520 (474)
2021–2023 Paris Saint-Germain 58 (22)
2023– Inter Miami 18 (13)
International career
2004–2005 Argentina U20 18 (14)
2008 Argentina U23 5[α] (2)
2005– Argentina 187 (109)
Medal record
Men's football
Representing  Argentina
FIFA World Cup
Winner 2022 Qatar
Runner-up 2014 Brazil
Copa América
Winner 2021 Brazil
Winner 2024 United States
Runner-up 2007 Venezuela
Runner-up 2015 Chile
Runner-up 2016 United States
Third place 2019 Brazil
CONMEBOL–UEFA Cup of Champions
Winner 2022 England
Olympic Games
Gold medal – first place 2008 Beijing Team
FIFA U-20 World Cup
Winner 2005 Netherlands
South American U-20 Championship
Third place 2005 Colombia

Signature
Lionel Messi signature
*Club domestic league appearances and goals, correct as of 04:00, 2 June 2024 (UTC)
‡ National team caps and goals, correct as of 04:38, 15 July 2024 (UTC)

Lionel Andrés "Leo" Messi[note 1] (Spanish pronunciation: [ljoˈnel anˈdɾes ˈmesi] ; born 24 June 1987) is an Argentine professional footballer who plays as a forward for and captains both Major League Soccer club Inter Miami and the Argentina national team. Widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time, Messi has won a record eight Ballon d'Or awards, a record six European Golden Shoes, and was named the world's best player for a record eight times by FIFA.[note 2] Messi is the most decorated player in the history of professional football, with 45 senior titles and trophies. Until 2021, he had spent his entire professional career with Barcelona, where he won a club-record 34 trophies, including ten La Liga titles, seven Copa del Rey titles, and the UEFA Champions League four times. With his country, he won two Copa América titles and the 2022 FIFA World Cup. A prolific goalscorer and creative playmaker, Messi holds the records for most goals (474), hat-tricks (36), and assists (192) in La Liga, most appearances (39) and assists (18) in the Copa América. He has the most international goals (109) and appearances (187) by a South American male. Messi has scored over 800 senior career goals for club and country, and the most goals for a single club (672).

Messi relocated to Spain and joined Barcelona aged 13, making his competitive debut at age 17 in October 2004. He established himself as an integral player for the club within the next three years, and in his first uninterrupted season in 2008–09 helped Barcelona achieve the first treble in Spanish football; that year, aged 22, Messi won his first Ballon d'Or. Messi won four consecutive Ballons d'Or, the first player to win it four times. During the 2011–12 season, he set La Liga and European records for most goals in a season, while establishing himself as Barcelona's all-time top scorer. The following two seasons, he finished second for the Ballon d'Or behind Cristiano Ronaldo, his perceived career rival, before regaining his best form during the 2014–15 campaign, becoming the all-time top scorer in La Liga and leading Barcelona to a historic second treble, and was awarded a fifth Ballon d'Or in 2015. Messi assumed captaincy of Barcelona in 2018, and won a record sixth Ballon d'Or in 2019. He signed for French club Paris Saint-Germain in August 2021, spending two seasons there and winning Ligue 1 twice. Messi joined American club Inter Miami in July 2023, winning the Leagues Cup in August.

An Argentine international, Messi is the country's all-time leading goalscorer and holds the national record for appearances. At youth level, he won the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship and gold at the 2008 Summer Olympics. His style of play as a diminutive, left-footed dribbler drew comparisons with compatriot Diego Maradona, who described Messi as his successor. After his senior debut in 2005, Messi became the youngest Argentine to play and score in a FIFA World Cup (2006). As the squad's captain from 2011, he led Argentina to three consecutive finals: the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the 2015 Copa América and the 2016 Copa América. After announcing his international retirement in 2016, he returned to lead his country to qualification for the 2018 FIFA World Cup and victory in the 2021 Copa América. He led Argentina to win the 2022 World Cup, where he won a record second Golden Ball, scored seven goals including two in the final, and broke the record for most games played at the World Cup (26), later receiving his record-extending eighth Ballon d'Or in 2023. He then won a second Copa América as captain in 2024.

Messi has endorsed sportswear company Adidas since 2006. According to France Football, he was the world's highest-paid footballer for five years out of six between 2009 and 2014, and was ranked the world's highest-paid athlete by Forbes in 2019 and 2022. Messi was among Time's 100 most influential people in the world in 2011, 2012, and 2023. In 2020 and 2023, he was named the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year, the first team-sport athlete to win it. In 2020, Messi was named to the Ballon d'Or Dream Team and became the second footballer and second team-sport athlete to surpass $1 billion in career earnings. In 2024, Messi founded Más+.

Early life

Messi was born on 24 June 1987 in Rosario, Santa Fe,[11] the third of four children of Jorge Messi, a steel factory manager, and his wife Celia Cuccittini, who worked in a magnet manufacturing workshop. On his father's side, he is of Italian and Spanish descent, the great-grandson of immigrants from the north-central Adriatic Marche region of Italy, and on his mother's side, he has primarily Italian ancestry.[3] Growing up in a tight-knit, football-loving family, "Leo" developed a passion for the sport from an early age, playing constantly with his older brothers, Rodrigo and Matías, and his cousins, Maximiliano and Emanuel Biancucchi, both of whom became professional footballers.[12] At the age of four he joined local club Grandoli, where he was coached by his father, though his earliest influence as a player came from his maternal grandmother, Celia, who accompanied him to training and matches.[13] He was greatly affected by her death, shortly before his eleventh birthday; since then, as a devout Catholic, he has celebrated his goals by looking up and pointing to the sky in tribute to his grandmother.[14][15]

"When you saw him you would think: this kid can't play ball. He's a dwarf, he's too fragile, too small. But immediately you'd realise that he was born different, that he was a phenomenon and that he was going to be something impressive."

Newell's Old Boys youth coach Adrián Coria shares his first impression of the 12-year-old Messi.[16]

A lifelong supporter of Newell's Old Boys, Messi joined the Rosario club when he was six years old. During the six years he played for Newell's, he scored almost 500 goals as a member of "The Machine of '87", the near-unbeatable youth side named for the year of their birth, and regularly entertained crowds by performing ball tricks during half-time of the first team's home games.[17][18] However, his future as a professional player was threatened when, aged 10, he was diagnosed with a growth hormone deficiency. As his father's health insurance covered only two years of growth hormone therapy, which cost at least $1,000 per month, Newell's agreed to contribute, but later reneged on their promise.[19] He was scouted by Buenos Aires club River Plate, whose playmaker Pablo Aimar he idolised.[20][21] It was speculated that he failed to be signed into River Plate due to his ill health, however in a 2019 interview, Messi revealed that the club had offered to pay for his medical treatment despite ultimately rejecting him.[22] His goalscoring idol growing up was Brazilian striker Ronaldo, with Messi calling him "the best forward I've ever seen".[23]

Messi enrolled at Barcelona's youth academy, La Masia, aged 13.

As the Messi family had relatives in Catalonia, they sought to arrange a trial with Barcelona in September 2000. First team director Charly Rexach immediately wanted to sign him, but the board of directors hesitated; at the time it was highly unusual for European clubs to sign foreign players of such a young age. On 14 December, an ultimatum was issued for Barcelona to prove their commitment, and Rexach, with no other paper at hand, offered a contract on a paper napkin.[20][24] In February 2001, the family relocated to Barcelona, where they moved into an apartment near the club's stadium, Camp Nou. During his first year in Spain, Messi rarely played with the Infantiles due to a transfer conflict with Newell's; as a foreigner, he could only be fielded in friendlies and the Catalan league. Without football, he struggled to integrate into the team; already reserved by nature, he was so quiet that his teammates initially believed he was mute. At home, he suffered from homesickness after his mother moved back to Rosario with his brothers and little sister, María Sol, while he stayed in Barcelona with his father.[17][24][25]

After a year at Barcelona's youth academy, La Masia, Messi was finally enrolled in the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) in February 2002. Now playing in all competitions, he befriended his teammates, among whom were Cesc Fàbregas and Gerard Piqué.[26] After completing his growth hormone therapy aged 14,[27] Messi became an integral part of the "Baby Dream Team", Barcelona's greatest-ever youth side. During his first full season (2002–03), he was top scorer with 36 goals in 30 games for the Cadetes A, who won an unprecedented treble of the league and both the Spanish and Catalan cups.[26][28] The Copa Catalunya final, a 4–1 victory over Espanyol, became known in club lore as the partido de la máscara, the final of the mask. A week after suffering a broken cheekbone during a league match, Messi was allowed to start the game on the condition that he wear a plastic protector; soon hindered by the mask, he took it off and scored two goals in 10 minutes before his substitution.[29] At the close of the season, he received an offer to join Arsenal, his first from a foreign club, but while Fàbregas and Piqué soon left for England, he chose to remain in Barcelona.[24][30][31]

Career

Club career

Barcelona

At the age of 16 years, four months, and 23 days old, Messi made his first-team debut as a 75th-minute substitute during a friendly against Porto on 16 November 2003.[24][32] Under Frank Rijkaard, who promoted him to the first team in October 2004,[33] he made his league debut on 16 October 2004 against Espanyol,[24] and scored his first senior goal on 1 May 2005 against Albacete, from an assist by Ronaldinho, becoming at that time the youngest-ever scorer for the club.[34][35] At 17 years, three months, and 22 days old, he was at the time the youngest player to represent Barcelona in an official competition.[36] Messi won the league title in the 2004–05,[37] and 2005–06 season. He won his first Champions League trophy in the 2006 final, although he was ruled out injured.[38][39] On 10 March 2007, Messi scored his first hat-trick in a Clásico, the first player to do so in 12 years, equalising after each goal by Real Madrid to end the match in a 3–3 draw in injury time.[40] In Rijkaard's final years at the club, Barcelona finished the 2006–07, and 2007–08 season without trophies,[41][42] leading to his departure. Messi was given the number 10 shirt for the 2008–09 season.[43] During that season, Messi, alongside Samuel Eto'o and Thierry Henry, contributed to a total of 100 goals in all competitions, a record at the time for the club.[44][45]

Messi (pictured in 2005) at the age of 18 playing for FC Barcelona, where he played for 17 years.

During his first season under Barcelona's new manager, former captain Pep Guardiola, Messi played as a false nine for the first time on 2 May 2009 in a Clásico. He scored twice and assisted once in a 6–2 victory, the team's greatest-ever score at Real Madrid's Santiago Bernabéu Stadium.[46][47] He played his first final on 19 May, winning the Copa del Rey.[48] Barcelona became the first club to achieve the sextuple. In addition to the Copa del Rey, Barcelona won the La Liga title and later won the Champions League, Supercopa de España, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup in the second half of 2009.[49][50] Messi finished as the Champions League top scorer, the youngest in the tournament's history,[51] For his efforts in 2009, Messi won the Ballon d'Or and the FIFA World Player of the Year award.[52] In the new year of the 2009–10 season, Messi scored a total of 47 goals in all competitions, equaling Ronaldo's club record from the 1996–97 campaign.[53][54] He finished the season as top scorer in the Champions League,[55] and La Liga, winning his second consecutive league trophy and earned his first European Golden Shoe.[54][56] In the 2010–11 campaign, Messi won the Supercopa de España,[57] Champions League,[58] and a third consecutive La Liga title. Messi was the top scorer in the Champions League, for the third consecutive year,[59] and the league's top scorer and assist provider.[60][61] He became Barcelona's all-time single-season top scorer with 53 goals.[60][62]

During the 2011–12 season, Messi scored 73 goals and provided 29 assists in all club competitions.[63][64][65] He began the campaign winning both the Spanish and European Super Cups trophies.[66][67] At the close of the year, he won the FIFA Club World Cup and earned the Golden Ball for a second time.[68] For his efforts in 2011, he received the FIFA Ballon d'Or, becoming only the fourth player in history to win the Ballon d'Or three times,[69] and the inaugural UEFA Best Player in Europe Award.[70] During the year 2012, Messi became the second player to be top scorer in four Champions League campaigns.[71][72] On 20 March, Messi became the top goalscorer in Barcelona's history at 24 years old with a hat-trick against Granada.[73] He finished the season as league top scorer in Spain and Europe for a second time, with 50 goals, a La Liga record, while his 73 goals in all competitions made him the single-season top scorer in the history of European club football.[74][75] Guardiola resigned that season after a four-year cycle of success.[76] A double scored on 9 December against Real Betis saw Messi becoming Barcelona's all-time top scorer in La Liga, and surpassed Gerd Müller's record of most goals scored in a calendar year.[77] At the close of the year, Messi had scored a record 91 goals in all competitions for Barcelona and Argentina.[78] Messi again won the FIFA Ballon d'Or, becoming the only player in history to win the Ballon d'Or four times.[78][79]

Paris Saint-Germain

On 10 August, Messi joined French club Paris Saint-Germain (PSG),[80] on a two-year deal until June 2023 with an option for an extra year.[81] Messi chose 30 as his squad number, the same he wore as a teenager when he made his senior debut for Barcelona.[82]

On 29 November, having scored 40 goals at club and international level for the calendar year and helped Argentina win the 2021 Copa América, Messi received a record seventh Ballon d'Or.[83] He finished his debut season with PSG with 11 goals and 14 assists across all competitions.[84]

In the 2022–23 season, he had the highest number of assists in the league with 16, and was included in the UNFP's Ligue 1 Team of the Season alongside teammates Achraf Hakimi, Nuno Mendes and Mbappé.[85][86] On 28 May, he scored in a 1–1 draw against Strasbourg, helping PSG clinch their 11th Ligue 1 title and his second in a row. At the end of the season, he departed for Inter Miami.

Inter Miami

On 15 July 2023, Inter Miami announced the signing of Messi on a two-and-a-half year contract.[87][88] His base salary was $12 million with guaranteed compensation totaling $20.4 million for the 2023 season; with additional shares from jersey sales, MLS Season Pass subscriptions, and a stake in the club.[89]

On 30 October, following his World Cup win with Argentina and Ligue 1 trophy with PSG, Messi was awarded a record-extending eighth Ballon d'Or.[90] He was also named Time Athlete of the Year, the first footballer to ever win the award.[91]

On 4 May 2024, Messi broke the record for the most assists in a single MLS game with five assists and he also broke the record for the most goal contributions in an MLS game with six in a 6–2 win over the New York Red Bulls.[92]

International career

As a dual Argentine-Spanish national, Messi was eligible to play for the national team of both countries.[93] He played for Argentina starting in 2004, after his 17th birthday.[94]

At the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Messi led Argentina to its first World Cup victory. He scored a total of 18 goals during the 2022 calendar year, an Argentina record.[95] With this victory, he had won every top tier trophy at both club and country levels available to him. In 2024, playing in he Copa America, Messi became the second highest international goalscorer of all time with 109 goals, surpassing Iran's Ali Daei.

Player profile

Style of play

A versatile forward, Messi often plays as a classic number 10.

Due to his short stature, Messi has a lower centre of gravity than taller players, which gives him greater agility, allowing him to change direction more quickly and evade opposing tackles;[96][97] this has led the Spanish media to dub him La Pulga Atómica ("The Atomic Flea").[98][99][100] Despite being physically unimposing, he possesses significant upper-body strength, which, combined with his low centre of gravity and resulting balance, aids him in withstanding physical challenges from opponents; he has consequently been noted for his lack of diving in a sport rife with playacting.[17][97][101] His short, strong legs allow him to excel in short bursts of acceleration while his quick feet enable him to retain control of the ball when dribbling at speed.[102] His former Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola once stated, "Messi is the only player that runs faster with the ball than he does without it."[103] Although he has improved his ability with his weaker foot since his mid-20s, Messi is predominantly a left-footed player; with the outside of his left foot, he usually begins dribbling runs, while he uses the inside of his foot to finish and provide passes and assists.[104][105]

A prolific goalscorer, Messi is known for his finishing, positioning, quick reactions, and ability to make attacking runs to beat the defensive line. He also functions in a playmaking role, courtesy of his vision and range of passing.[106] He has often been described as a magician; a conjurer, creating goals and opportunities where seemingly none exist.[107][108][109] Moreover, he is an accurate free kick and penalty kick taker.[97][110] As of September 2023, Messi ranks fifth all time in goals scored from direct free kicks with 65,[111] the most among active players.[112] He also has a penchant for scoring from chips.[113]

Messi is known to drop deep, link-up with midfielders, orchestrate attacking plays, and create goal-scoring opportunities.

Messi's pace and technical ability enable him to undertake individual dribbling runs towards goal, in particular during counterattacks, usually starting from the halfway line or the right side of the pitch.[101][110][114] Widely considered to be the best dribbler in the world,[115] and one of the greatest dribblers of all time,[116] with regard to this ability, his former Argentina manager Diego Maradona has said of him, "The ball stays glued to his foot; I've seen great players in my career, but I've never seen anyone with Messi's ball control."[105] Beyond his individual qualities, he is also a well-rounded, hard-working team player, known for his creative combinations, in particular with former Barcelona midfielders Xavi and Andrés Iniesta.[96][97]

Tactically, Messi plays in a free attacking role; a versatile player, he is capable of attacking on either wing or through the centre of the pitch. His favoured position in childhood was the playmaker behind two strikers, known as the enganche in Argentine football, but he began his career in Spain as a left-winger or left-sided forward.[117] Upon his first-team debut, he was moved onto the right wing by manager Frank Rijkaard; from this position, he could more easily cut through the defence into the middle of the pitch and curl shots on goal with his left foot, rather than predominantly cross balls for teammates.[103] Under Guardiola and subsequent managers, he most often played in a false nine role; positioned as a centre-forward or lone striker, he would roam the centre, often moving deep into midfield and drawing defenders with him, in order to create and exploit spaces for passes, other teammates' attacking runs off the ball, Messi's own dribbling runs, or combinations with Xavi and Iniesta.[25] Under the stewardship of Luis Enrique, Messi initially returned to playing in the right-sided position that characterised much of his early career in the manager's 4–3–3 formation,[118][119] while he was increasingly deployed in a deeper, free playmaking role in later seasons.[120][121] Under manager Ernesto Valverde, Messi played in a variety of roles. While he occasionally continued to be deployed in a deeper role, from which he could make runs from behind into the box,[122] or even on the right wing[123] or as a false nine,[124][125] he was also used in a more offensive, central role in a 4–2–3–1,[121] or as a second striker in a 4–4–2 formation, where he was once again given the licence to drop deep, link-up with midfielders, orchestrate his team's attacking plays, and create chances for his attacking partner Suárez.[126][127]

Messi prepares to shoot with his dominant left foot in the 2014 FIFA World Cup final.

As his career advanced, and his tendency to dribble diminished slightly with age, Messi began to dictate play in deeper areas of the pitch and developed into one of the best passers and playmakers in football history.[128][129][130] His work-rate off the ball and defensive responsibilities also decreased as his career progressed; by covering less ground on the pitch, and instead conserving his energy for short bursts of speed, he was able to improve his efficiency, movement, and positional play, and was also able to avoid muscular injuries, despite often playing a large number of matches throughout a particular season on a consistent basis. Indeed, while he was injury-prone in his early career, he was later able to improve his injury record by running less off the ball, and by adopting a stricter diet, training regime, and sleep schedule.[131] With the Argentina national team, Messi has similarly played anywhere along the frontline; under various managers, he has been employed on the right wing, as a false nine, as an out-and-out striker, in a supporting role alongside another forward, or in a deeper, free creative role as a classic number 10 playmaker or attacking midfielder behind the strikers.[132][133]

Reception and comparisons to Diego Maradona

"I have seen the player who will inherit my place in Argentinian football and his name is Messi."

Diego Maradona hailing the 18-year-old Messi as his successor in February 2006[134][135]

A prodigious talent as a teenager, Messi established himself among the world's best players before age 20.[136] Diego Maradona considered the 18-year-old Messi the best player in the world alongside Ronaldinho, while the Brazilian himself, shortly after winning the 2005 Ballon d'Or, commented, "I'm not even the best at Barça", in reference to his protégé.[137][138] Four years later, after Messi had won his first Ballon d'Or by a record margin,[52] the public debate regarding his qualities as a player moved beyond his status in contemporary football to the possibility that he was one of the greatest players in history.[13][101][139] An early proponent was his then-manager Pep Guardiola, who, as early as August 2009, declared Messi to be the best player he had ever seen.[140] In the following years, this opinion gained greater acceptance among pundits, managers, former and current players,[62][141] and by the end of Barça's second treble-winning season, the view of Messi as one of the greatest footballers of all time had become the apparent view among many fans and pundits in continental Europe.[142][143] He initially received several dismissals by critics, based on the fact that he had not won an international trophy at senior level with Argentina,[144] until he won his first at the 2021 Copa América.[145]

Argentina fans with Messi and Maradona banners at the 2018 World Cup in Russia
The Sistine Chapel of Football painting (Messi to the left, Maradona to the right), on the ceiling of a sports club, Sportivo Pereyra, in Barracas, Buenos Aires

Throughout his career, Messi has been compared with his late compatriot Maradona, due to their similar playing styles as diminutive, left-footed dribblers. Initially, he was merely one of many young Argentine players, including his boyhood idol Pablo Aimar, to receive the "New Maradona" moniker, but as his career progressed, Messi proved his similarity beyond all previous contenders, establishing himself as the greatest player Argentina had produced since Maradona.[21][146] Jorge Valdano, who won the 1986 World Cup alongside Maradona, said in October 2013, "Messi is Maradona every day. For the last five years, Messi has been the Maradona of the World Cup in Mexico."[147] César Menotti, who as manager orchestrated their 1978 World Cup victory, echoed this sentiment when he opined that Messi plays "at the level of the best Maradona".[148] Other notable Argentines in the sport, such as Osvaldo Ardiles, Javier Zanetti, and Diego Simeone, have expressed their belief that Messi has overtaken Maradona as the best player in history.[149][150][151]

In Argentine society, prior to 2019, Messi was generally held in lesser esteem than Maradona, a consequence of not only his perceived uneven performances with the national team, but also of differences in class, personality, and background. Messi is in some ways the antithesis of his predecessor: where Maradona was an extroverted, controversial character who rose to greatness from the slums, Messi is reserved and unassuming, an unremarkable man outside of football.[152][153][154] An enduring mark against him is the fact that, through no fault of his own, he never proved himself in the Argentine Primera División as an upcoming player, achieving stardom overseas from a young age,[17][152] while his lack of outward passion for the Albiceleste shirt (until 2019 he did not sing the national anthem and is disinclined to emotional displays) have in the past led to the false perception that he felt Catalan rather than truly Argentine.[155] Football journalist Tim Vickery states the view among Argentines is that Messi "was always seen as more Catalan than one of them".[156] Despite having lived in Spain since age 13, Messi rejected the option of representing Spain internationally. He has said: "Argentina is my country, my family, my way of expressing myself. I would change all my records to make the people in my country happy."[157] Moreover, several pundits and footballing figures, including Maradona, questioned Messi's leadership with Argentina at times, despite his playing ability.[158][159][160] Vickery states the perception of Messi among Argentines changed in 2019, with Messi making a conscious effort to become "more one of the group, more Argentine", with Vickery adding that following the World Cup victory in 2022 Messi would now be held in the same esteem by his compatriots as Maradona.[156]

Comparisons with Cristiano Ronaldo

Messi has been compared with Cristiano Ronaldo (left) throughout much of their careers.

Among his contemporary peers, Messi is most often compared and contrasted with Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo, as part of an ongoing rivalry that has been compared to past sports rivalries like the Muhammad AliJoe Frazier rivalry in boxing, the Prost–Senna rivalry in motorsport, and the tennis rivalries between Federer–Nadal and Borg–McEnroe.[161][162][163]

Although Messi has at times denied any rivalry,[164][165] they are widely believed to push one another in their aim to be the best player in the world.[166] Since 2008, Messi has won eight Ballons d'Or to Ronaldo's five,[167] eight FIFA World's Best Player awards to Ronaldo's five, and six European Golden Shoes to Ronaldo's four.[168] Pundits and fans regularly argue the individual merits of both players.[166][169] Beyond their playing styles, the debate also revolves around their differing physiques – Ronaldo is 1.87 m (6 ft 1+12 in) with a muscular build – and contrasting public personalities with Ronaldo's self-confidence and theatrics a foil to Messi's humility.[170][171][172] From 2009–10 to 2017–18, Messi faced Ronaldo at least twice every season in El Clásico, which ranks among the world's most viewed annual sports events.[173] Off the pitch, Ronaldo is his direct competitor in terms of salary, sponsorships, and social media fanbase.[173]

After Messi led Argentina to victory in the 2022 World Cup, a number of football critics, commentators, and players have opined that Messi has settled the debate between the two players.[A]

In popular culture

Messi was the world's highest-paid footballer for five years out of six between 2009 and 2014; he was the first player to exceed the €40 million benchmark, with earnings of €41 million in 2013, and the €50–€60 million points, with income of €65 million in 2014.[177][178] Messi was second on Forbes list of the world's highest-paid athletes, after Ronaldo, with income of $81 million from salary and endorsements in 2015–16.[179] In 2018 he was the first player to exceed the €100m benchmark for a calendar year, with earnings of €126m ($154m) in combined income from salaries, bonuses and endorsements.[180] Forbes ranked him the world's highest-paid athlete in 2019.[181] From 2008, he was Barcelona's highest-paid player, receiving a salary that increased incrementally from €7.8 million to €13 million over the next five years.[182][183][184] Signing a new contract in 2017, he earned $667,000 per week in wages, and Barcelona paid him $60 million as a signing on bonus.[185] His buyout clause was set at $835 million (€700 million).[185] In 2020, Messi became the second footballer, as well as the second athlete in a team sport, after Ronaldo, to surpass $1 billion in earnings during their careers.[186]

Messi's Argentina jersey, supplied by Adidas, was sold out worldwide during the 2022 World Cup.[187]

In addition to salary and bonuses, much of his income derives from endorsements; SportsPro has consequently cited him as one of the world's most marketable athletes every year since their research began in 2010.[188] His main sponsor since 2006 is Adidas. As Barcelona's leading youth prospect, he was signed with Nike since age 14, but transferred to Adidas after they successfully challenged their rival's claim to his image rights in court.[189] Messi established himself as their leading brand endorser;[173] from 2008, he had a long-running signature collection of Adidas F50 boots, and in 2015, became the first footballer to receive his own sub-brand of Adidas boots, the Adidas Messi.[190][191] Since 2017, he has worn the latest version of the Adidas Nemeziz.[192] In 2015, a Barcelona jersey with Messi's name and number was the best-selling replica jersey worldwide.[193] At the 2022 World Cup, Adidas sold out Messi's No. 10 Argentina jersey worldwide.[187]

After blessing himself, Messi often celebrates a goal by pointing a finger on each hand towards the sky in dedication to his late grandmother.[194] His goal celebration features in the FIFA video game series, first appearing in FIFA 14.

As a commercial entity, Messi's brand has been based exclusively on his talents and achievements as a player, in contrast to arguably more glamorous players like Ronaldo and David Beckham. At the start of his career, he thus mainly held sponsorship contracts with companies that employ sports-oriented marketing, such as Adidas, Pepsi, and Konami.[195][196] From 2010, concurrently with increased achievements as a player, his marketing appeal widened, leading to long-term endorsement deals with luxury brands Dolce & Gabbana and Audemars Piguet.[195][197] Messi is a global brand ambassador for Gillette, Turkish Airlines, Ooredoo, and Tata Motors, among other companies.[198][199][200][201] Messi was the face of Konami's video game series Pro Evolution Soccer, appearing on the covers of PES 2009, PES 2010, PES 2011 and PES 2020. He subsequently signed with rival company EA Sports to become the face of their series FIFA and appeared on consecutive covers from FIFA 13 to FIFA 16.[202][203]

Messi was among the Time 100, an annual list of the world's most influential people, in 2011, 2012 and 2023.[204][205][206] His fanbase on Facebook is among the largest of public figures: within seven hours of its launch in April 2011, Messi's Facebook page had nearly seven million followers, and by July 2023 he had over 114 million followers, the second highest for a sportsperson after Cristiano Ronaldo.[207][208] He has over 500 million Instagram followers, the second highest for an individual and sportsperson after Ronaldo.[209] His World Cup celebration post from 18 December 2022 is the most liked post on Instagram with over 70 million likes.[210] According to a 2014 survey in 15 international markets, Messi was familiar to 87% of respondents around the world, of whom 78% perceived him favourably, making him the second-most recognised player globally, behind Ronaldo, and the most likable of all contemporary players.[211][212] On his economic impact on the city in which he plays, Terry Gibson called him a "tourist attraction".[213]

Indian vehicle art of Messi

Madame Tussauds unveiled their first wax sculpture of Messi at Wembley Stadium in 2012.[214] A gold replica of his left foot, weighing 25 kg (55 lb) and valued at $5.3 million, went on sale in Japan in 2013 to raise funds for victims of the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami.[215] In 2013, a Turkish Airlines advertisement starring Messi, in which he engages in a selfie competition with Kobe Bryant, was the most-watched ad on YouTube in 2013, receiving 137 million views, and was voted the best advertisement of the 2005–15 decade to commemorate YouTube's founding.[216][217] World Press Photo selected "The Final Game", a photo of Messi facing the World Cup trophy after Argentina's final defeat to Germany, as the best sports image of 2014.[218] Messi, a documentary by filmmaker Álex de la Iglesia, premiered at the Venice Film Festival in August 2014.[219]

In June 2021, Messi signed a five-year deal to become an ambassador for the Hard Rock Cafe brand. He stated, "sports and music are an integral part of my life. It is an honor to be the first athlete to partner with a brand who has a history of teaming with music legends."[220] In May 2022, Messi was unveiled as Saudi Arabia's tourism ambassador. Due to Saudi Arabia's poor human rights record, Messi was condemned for the role which was viewed as an attempt of Saudi sportswashing.[221][222] In April 2023, Messi was featured in the 200 year old Thrissur Pooram festival in Kerala, India.[223] During Thrissur Pooram, which is one of the largest festivals in Asia, umbrellas carrying the illuminated cut outs of Messi holding the World Cup trophy were displayed on the top of caparisoned elephants during the Kudamattam ceremony.[224]

Personal life

Family and relationships

Since 2008, Messi has been in a relationship with Antonela Roccuzzo, a fellow native of Rosario.[225] He has known Roccuzzo since he was five years old, as she is the cousin of his childhood best friend, Lucas Scaglia, who is also a football player.[226] After keeping their relationship private for a year, Messi first confirmed their romance in an interview in January 2009, before going public a month later during a carnival in Sitges after the Barcelona–Espanyol derby.[227]

"Leo is not shy. He's introverted. He's reserved."

— Endocrinologist Diego Schwarzstein,[note 3] who addressed Messi's growth hormone deficiency from 1997 to 2001.

Messi and Roccuzzo have three sons. To celebrate his partner's first pregnancy, Messi placed the ball under his shirt after scoring in Argentina's 4–0 win against Ecuador on 2 June 2012, before confirming the pregnancy in an interview two weeks later.[229] Thiago was born in Barcelona on 2 November 2012.[230] In April 2015, Messi confirmed that they were expecting another child.[231] On 30 June 2017, he married Roccuzzo at a luxury hotel named Hotel City Center in Rosario.[232] In October 2017, his wife announced they were expecting their third child.[233] Messi and his family are Catholic Christians.[234]

Messi enjoys a close relationship with his immediate family members, particularly his mother, Celia, whose face he has tattooed on his left shoulder. His professional affairs are largely run as a family business: his father, Jorge, has been his agent since he was 14, and his oldest brother, Rodrigo, handles his daily schedule and publicity. His mother and other brother, Matías, manage his charitable organization, the Leo Messi Foundation, and take care of personal and professional matters in Rosario.[235]

Since leaving for Spain aged 13, Messi has maintained close ties to his hometown of Rosario, even preserving his distinct Rosarino accent. He has kept ownership of his family's old house, although it has long stood empty; he maintains a penthouse apartment in an exclusive residential building for his mother, as well as a family compound just outside the city. Once when he was in training with the national team in Buenos Aires, he made a three-hour trip by car to Rosario immediately after practice to have dinner with his family, spent the night with them, and returned to Buenos Aires the next day in time for practice. Messi keeps in daily contact via phone and text with a small group of confidants in Rosario, most of whom were fellow members of "The Machine of '87" at Newell's Old Boys. He was on bad terms with the club after his transfer to Barcelona, but by 2012 their public feud had ended, with Newell's embracing their ties with Messi, even issuing a club membership card to his newborn son.[17][236][237] Messi has long planned to return to Rosario to end his playing career at Newell's.[238] Messi holds triple citizenship, as he is a citizen of Argentina, Italy, and Spain.[239]

Philanthropy

Throughout his career, Messi has been involved in charitable efforts aimed at vulnerable children, a commitment that stems in part from the medical difficulties he faced in his own childhood. Since 2004, he has contributed his time and finances to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), an organisation with which Barcelona also have a strong association.[240][241] Messi has served as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador since his appointment in March 2010, completing his first field mission for the organisation four months later as he travelled to Haiti to bring public awareness to the plight of the country's children in the wake of the 2010 Haiti earthquake. He has since participated in UNICEF campaigns targeting HIV prevention, education, and the social inclusion of disabled children.[242] To celebrate his son's first birthday, in November 2013, Messi and Thiago were part of a publicity campaign to raise awareness of mortality rates among disadvantaged children.[243]

Messi (pictured in 2007) has worked with UNICEF since 2004 and has served as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador since 2010.

In addition to his work with UNICEF, Messi founded his own charitable organisation, the Leo Messi Foundation, which supports access to health care, education, and sport for children.[244] It was established in 2007 following a visit Messi paid to a hospital for terminally ill children in Boston, an experience that resonated with him to the point that he decided to reinvest part of his earnings into society.[236] Through his foundation, Messi has awarded research grants, financed medical training, and invested in the development of medical centres and projects in Argentina, Spain, and elsewhere in the world.[236][245] In addition to his own fundraising activities, such as his global "Messi and Friends" football matches, his foundation receives financial support from various companies to which he has assigned his name in endorsement agreements, with Adidas as their main sponsor.[246][247]

Messi has also invested in youth football in Argentina: he financially supports Sarmiento, a football club based in the Rosario neighbourhood where he was born, committing in 2013 to the refurbishment of their facilities and the installation of all-weather pitches, and funds the management of several youth players at Newell's Old Boys and rival club Rosario Central, as well as at River Plate and Boca Juniors in Buenos Aires.[236] At Newell's Old Boys, his boyhood club, he funded the 2012 construction of a new gymnasium and a dormitory inside the club's stadium for their youth academy. His former youth coach at Newell's, Ernesto Vecchio, is employed by the Leo Messi Foundation as a talent scout for young players.[17] On 7 June 2016, Messi won a libel case against La Razón newspaper and was awarded €65,000 in damages, which he donated to the charity Médecins Sans Frontières.[248] Messi made a donation worth €1 million ($1.1 million) to fight the spread of coronavirus.[249] This was split between Clinic Barcelona in Barcelona and his native Argentina.[250] In addition to this, Messi along with his fellow FC Barcelona teammates announced he would be taking a 70% cut in salaries during the 2020 coronavirus emergency, and contribute further to the club to provide fully to salaries of all the clubs employees.[251]

In November 2016, with the Argentine Football Association being run by a FIFA committee for emergency due to an economic crisis, it was reported that three of the national team's security staff told Messi that they had not received their salaries for six months. He stepped in and paid the salaries of the three members.[252][253] In February 2021, Messi donated to the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya his Adidas shoes which he wore when he scored his 644th goal for Barcelona and broke Pelé's record for most goals scored for a single club; the shoes were later auctioned off in April by the museum for charity to help children with cancer and were sold for £125,000.[254]

In advance of the 2021 Copa América, Messi donated three signed shirts to the Chinese pharmaceutical firm Sinovac Biotech—whose directors spoke of their admiration for Messi—in order to secure 50,000 doses of Sinovac's COVID-19 vaccine, CoronaVac, in the hope of vaccinating all of South America's football players.[255] A deal brokered by Uruguay's president Luis Lacalle Pou, the plan to prioritise football players caused some controversy given widespread vaccine scarcity in the region, with the Mayor of Canelones Yamandú Orsi remarking that "Just as the president manifested cooperation with CONMEBOL to vaccinate for the Copa América, he could just as well have the same consideration for Canelones".[255]

Tax fraud

Messi's financial affairs came under investigation in 2013 for suspected tax evasion. Offshore companies in tax havens Uruguay and Belize were used to evade €4.1 million in taxes related to sponsorship earnings between 2007 and 2009. An unrelated shell company in Panama set up in 2012 was subsequently identified as belonging to the Messis in the Panama Papers data leak. Messi, who pleaded ignorance of the alleged scheme, voluntarily paid arrears of €5.1 million in August 2013. On 6 July 2016, Messi and his father were both found guilty of tax fraud and were handed suspended 21-month prison sentences and respectively ordered to pay €1.7 million and €1.4 million in fines.[256] Facing the judge, he said, "I just played football. I signed the contracts because I trusted my dad and the lawyers and we had decided that they would take charge of those things."[257]

Career statistics

Club

As of match played 1 June 2024
Appearances and goals by club, season and competition
Club Season League National cup[a] Continental[b] Other Total
Division Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Barcelona C 2003–04[258] Tercera División 10 5 10 5
Barcelona B 2003–04[259] Segunda División B 5 0 5 0
2004–05[260] Segunda División B 17 6 17 6
Total 22 6 22 6
Barcelona 2004–05[260] La Liga 7 1 1 0 1 0 9 1
2005–06[261] La Liga 17 6 2 1 6 1 0 0 25 8
2006–07[262] La Liga 26 14 2 2 5 1 3[c] 0 36 17
2007–08[263] La Liga 28 10 3 0 9 6 40 16
2008–09[264] La Liga 31 23 8 6 12 9 51 38
2009–10[265] La Liga 35 34 3 1 11 8 4[d] 4 53 47
2010–11[266] La Liga 33 31 7 7 13 12 2[e] 3 55 53
2011–12[267] La Liga 37 50 7 3 11 14 5[f] 6 60 73
2012–13[268] La Liga 32 46 5 4 11 8 2[e] 2 50 60
2013–14[269] La Liga 31 28 6 5 7 8 2[e] 0 46 41
2014–15[270] La Liga 38 43 6 5 13 10 57 58
2015–16[271] La Liga 33 26 5 5 7 6 4[g] 4 49 41
2016–17[272] La Liga 34 37 7 5 9 11 2[e] 1 52 54
2017–18[273] La Liga 36 34 6 4 10 6 2[e] 1 54 45
2018–19[274] La Liga 34 36 5 3 10 12 1[e] 0 50 51
2019–20[275] La Liga 33 25 2 2 8 3 1[e] 1 44 31
2020–21[276] La Liga 35 30 5 3 6 5 1[e] 0 47 38
Total 520 474 80 56 149 120 29 22 778 672
Paris Saint-Germain 2021–22[277] Ligue 1 26 6 1 0 7 5 34 11
2022–23[278] Ligue 1 32 16 1 0 7 4 1[h] 1 41 21
Total 58 22 2 0 14 9 1 1 75 32
Inter Miami 2023 MLS 6 1 1 0 7[i] 10 14 11
2024 MLS 12 12 3[j] 2 0 0 15 14
Total 18 13 1 0 3 2 7 10 29 25
Career total 628 520 83 56 166 131 37 33 914 740
  1. ^ Includes Copa del Rey, Coupe de France, U.S. Open Cup
  2. ^ All appearances in UEFA Champions League, unless otherwise noted
  3. ^ One appearance in UEFA Super Cup, two appearances in Supercopa de España
  4. ^ One appearance in UEFA Super Cup, one appearance and two goals in Supercopa de España, two appearances and two goals in FIFA Club World Cup
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Appearance(s) in Supercopa de España
  6. ^ One appearance and one goal in UEFA Super Cup, two appearances and three goals in Supercopa de España, two appearances and two goals in FIFA Club World Cup
  7. ^ One appearance and two goals in UEFA Super Cup, two appearances and one goal in Supercopa de España, one appearance and one goal in FIFA Club World Cup
  8. ^ Appearance in Trophée des Champions
  9. ^ Appearances in Leagues Cup
  10. ^ Appearances in CONCACAF Champions Cup

International

As of match played 14 July 2024
Appearances and goals by national team, year and competition
Team Year Competitive Friendly Total
Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Argentina U20[279][280] 2004 2 3 2 3
2005 16[a] 11 16 11
Total 16 11 2 3 18 14
Argentina U23[281] 2008 5[b] 2 5[α] 2
Total 5 2 0 0 5 2
Argentina[285][286] 2005 3[c] 0 2 0 5 0
2006 3[d] 1 4 1 7 2
2007 10[e] 4 4 2 14 6
2008 6[c] 1 2 1 8 2
2009 8[c] 1 2 2 10 3
2010 5[d] 0 5 2 10 2
2011 8[f] 2 5 2 13 4
2012 5[c] 5 4 7 9 12
2013 5[c] 3 2 3 7 6
2014 7[d] 4 7 4 14 8
2015 6[g] 1 2 3 8 4
2016 10[h] 8 1 0 11 8
2017 5[c] 4 2 0 7 4
2018 4[d] 1 1 3 5 4
2019 6[g] 1 4 4 10 5
2020 4[c] 1 0 0 4 1
2021 16[i] 9 0 0 16 9
2022 10[j] 8 4 10 14 18
2023 5[c] 3 3 5 8 8
2024 5[g] 1 2 2 7 3
Total 131 58 56 51 187 109
Career total 152 71 58 54 210 125
  1. ^ Nine appearances and five goals in the 2005 South American U-20 Championship, seven appearances and six goals in the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship
  2. ^ Appearances in Summer Olympics
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Appearance(s) in FIFA World Cup qualification
  4. ^ a b c d Appearance(s) in FIFA World Cup
  5. ^ Six appearances and two goals in Copa América, four appearances and two goals in FIFA World Cup qualification
  6. ^ Four appearances in Copa América, four appearances and two goals in FIFA World Cup qualification
  7. ^ a b c Appearance(s) in Copa América
  8. ^ Five appearances and three goals in FIFA World Cup qualification, five appearances and five goals in Copa América
  9. ^ Nine appearances and five goals in FIFA World Cup qualification, seven appearances and four goals in Copa América
  10. ^ Two appearances and one goal in FIFA World Cup qualification, one appearance in CONMEBOL–UEFA Cup of Champions, seven appearances and seven goals in FIFA World Cup

Honours

Messi (Golden Ball winner) pictured with future teammate Neymar (Bronze Ball winner) at the conclusion of the 2011 FIFA Club World Cup final

Barcelona[287][288]

Paris Saint-Germain[287][288]

Inter Miami[287][288]

Argentina U20[287][288]

Argentina U23[287][288]

Argentina[287][288]

Individual

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Citations:[174][175][176]
  1. ^ According to FCBarcelona.com, and his authorised biography, Messi by Guillem Balagué, his surname is the single "Messi", in accordance with Argentine customs.[2][3] Other sources, including a 2014 document by FIFA, give his surname as the double "Messi Cuccittini".[4] After winning a libel case in 2017, Messi's own management company stated: "The football player Lionel Andres Messi Cuccittini has donated a total of €72,783.20 to the organisation Doctors Without Borders."[5]
  2. ^ a b c Messi received France Football's 2009 Ballon d'Or and FIFA's 2009 FIFA World Player of the Year award, prior to their six-year merger; he proceeded to win the newly formed award, the FIFA Ballon d'Or, four times—2010, 2011, 2012, 2015. Both organisations credited him with five (FIFA) Ballon d'Or awards.[6][7][8] He then went on to win the Ballon d'Or three more times—2019, 2021, 2023—again assigned by the sole France Football, and won the newly established The Best FIFA Men's Player three times as well—2019, 2022, 2023. France Football recognizes him as a record eight-time Ballon d'Or winner and FIFA recognizes him as a record eight-time world's best player.[9][10]
  3. ^ According to Bleacher Report's Richard Fitzpatrick, "Schwarzstein and Messi built up a close relationship during more than four years of treatment."[228]
  1. ^ a b Does not include an unofficial friendly match played on 24 May 2008 in Barcelona between Argentina U23 and the Catalonia national football team,[282][283] as Catalonia is not affiliated with either FIFA or UEFA as a national member association and is therefore not allowed to participate in official competitions.[284]

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Bibliography

External links

Sporting positions
Preceded by FC Barcelona captain
2018–2021
Succeeded by