Lionel Andrés Messi (born 24 June 1987) is an Argentine footballer who currently plays for La Liga team Barcelona and the Argentine national team. Considered one of the best football players of his generation and frequently cited as the world's best contemporary player, Messi received several Ballon d'Or and FIFA World Player of the Year nominations by the age of 21 and won both by the age of 22. His playing style and ability have drawn comparisons to football legend Diego Maradona, who himself declared Messi his "successor".
Messi began playing football at a young age and his potential was quickly identified by Barcelona. He left Rosario-based Newell's Old Boys's youth team in 2000 and moved with his family to Europe, as Barcelona offered treatment for his growth hormone deficiency. Making his debut in the 2004–05 season, he broke the La Liga record for the youngest footballer to play a league game, and also the youngest to score a league goal. Major honours soon followed as Barcelona won La Liga in Messi's debut season, and won a double of the league and UEFA Champions League in 2006. His breakthrough season was in 2006–07: he became a first team regular, scoring a hat-trick in El Clásico and finishing with 14 goals in 26 league games. Perhaps his most successful season was the 2008–09 season, in which Messi scored 38 goals to play an integral part in a treble-winning campaign.
Lionel Messi became the latest teen superstar of Argentine soccer in 2005. That year he was named the player of the tournament at under-20 World Cup; played his first game for the Argentine national team (against Hungary on 17 August); and scored his first goal (on 1 May) with the professional team FC Barcelona, where he played alongside another South American sensation, Ronaldinho. That year Messi also turned 18. He was soon being compared to an earlier Argentine soccer hero, Diego Maradona. Like Maradona, Messi is an attacking, goal-scoring forward; Barcelona's official site calls him "highly creative." Messi was a member of Argentina's 2006 World Cup team. In 2009 he helped Barcelona win a rare triple: the Copa del Rey, Spain's La Liga championship, and the Champions League.
Extra credits: Messi is 5'6" tall; his nickname is "The Flea"... Rosario was also the birthplace of Che Guevara... Messi scored a famous solo goal for FC Barcelona against Getafe CF on 18 April 2007. He took the ball just inside the half line and sprinted past five defenders and the goalie before booting the ball home from a sharp angle. The goal is often compared to Diego Maradona's dashing solo "goal of the century" vs. England in the 1986 World Cup. In 2008, in Beijing, he won his first international honour, an Olympic gold medal, with the Argentina Olympic football team.
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