Lionel Andrés "Leo" Messi (born 24 June 1987) is an Argentine professional footballer who plays as a forward for Spanish club FC Barcelona and is the captain for the Argentina national team.
By the age of 21, Messi had received Ballon d'Or and FIFA World Player of the Year nominations. The following year, in 2009, he won his first Ballon d'Orand FIFA World Player of the Year awards. He followed this up by winning the inaugural FIFA Ballon d'Or in 2010, and then again in 2011 and 2012. He also won the 2010–11 UEFA Best Player in Europe Award. At the age of 24, Messi became Barcelona's all-time top scorer in all official club competitions. In
September 2014 he scored his 400th senior career goal for club and country aged just 27. In November 2014, Messi became the all-time top scorer in La Liga, and the all-time leading goalscorer in the UEFA Champions League.
Often ranked as the best player in the world, alongside rival Cristiano Ronaldo, and rated by some in the sport as the greatest of all time,Messi is the first football player in history to win four FIFA/Ballons d'Or, all of which he won consecutively, and the first to win three European Golden Shoeawards. With Barcelona, Messi has won six La Ligas, two Copas del Rey, sixSupercopas de Espana, three UEFA Champions Leagues, two UEFA Super Cups and two FIFA Club World Cups.
Messi is the only player to top-score in four consecutive Champions League seasons, and also holds the record for the most hat-tricks scored in the competition with five. In March 2012 he made Champions League history by becoming the first player to score five goals in one match. In the 2011–12 season, Messi set the European record for most goals scored in a season with 73 goals, set the goalscoring record in a single La Liga season with 50 goals, and became the first player ever to score and assist in six different official competitions in one season. In February 2013 he scored his 300th Barcelona goal. On 30 March 2013, Messi scored in his 19th consecutive La Liga game, becoming the first footballer in history to net in consecutive matches against every team in a professional football league. He extended his record scoring streak to 21 consecutive league matches. In March 2014, with a hat-trick against Real Madrid, Messi became the player with the most goals and most hat-tricks in the history of El Clasico. In October 2014, Messi, aged 27, became the youngest player to score 250 goals in La Liga. In November 2014, Messi scored a hat-trick against Sevilla to reach 253 La Liga goals, becoming the all-time top scorer in La Liga. Later that month, he scored his 74th Champions League goal to become its all-time leading scorer.
Messi helped Argentina win the 2005 FIFA U-20 World Cup, finishing as both the best player and the top scorer (with six goals). In 2006, he became the youngest Argentine to play and score in the FIFA World Cup, and won a runners-up medal at the Copa América in 2007, in which he was named young player of the tournament. In 2008, he won an Olympic Gold Medal with the Argentina Olympic football team. At the 2014 World Cup, he led Argentina to the final, winning four consecutive Man of the Match awards in the process, and received the Golden Ball award as the best player of the tournament. In 2013, Sports Pro rated him the second-most marketable athlete in the world. His playing style and stature have drawn comparisons to compatriot Diego Maradona, who himself declared Messi his "successor".
Often referred to as an Argentine-Spanish player, this crossover was brought into sharp focus when in 2004, Lionel was offered the chance to play for the Spanish national U-20 team. He declined the offer given his Argentine heritage, and was given the opportunity to play for Argentina's U-20 team in a friendly match against Paraguay in June 2004. Messi scored once against Paraguay and twice in friendly against Uruguay in July 2004. In 2005
he was part of a team that finished third in 2005 South American Youth Championship in Colombia. He won the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship in the Netherlands with the team and won
the Golden Ball and the Golden Shoe, scoring in the last four of Argentina's matches and netting a total of six for the tournament.
He made his full international debut on 17 August 2005 against Hungary at the age of 18. He was substituted on during the 63rd minute, but was sent off on the 65th minute because the referee, Markus Merk, claimed that Messi had allegedly elbowed defender Vilmos Vanczák, who was tugging Messi's shirt. The decision was contentious and Diego Maradona even claimed the decision was pre-meditated. Messi was later reportedly found weeping in the changing rooms after the decision. Messi returned to the team on 3 September in Argentina's 1–0 World Cup qualifier away defeat toParaguay. Ahead of the match he had said "This is a re-debut. The first one was a bit short." He then started his first game for Argentina in a World Cup qualifier against Peru, in which he was able to win a crucial penalty for Argentina to win the match; after the match national coach José Pékerman described Messi as "a jewel". He scored his first goal for Argentina in a friendly match against Croatia on 1 March 2006.
Messi has been compared to compatriot Diego Maradona, due to their similar playing style and stature, which gives him a lower centre of gravity than most players, allowing him to be more agile and change direction more quickly, helping him to evade opposing tackles. His short, strong legs allow him to excel in short bursts of acceleration and his quick feet allow him to keep control of the ball
when dribbling at speed. His former FC Barcelona manager, Pep Guardiola, once stated: "Messi is the only player that runs faster with the ball than he does without it." Like Maradona before him, 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 to team mates. Messi is widely regarded as one of the best players of all time, and alongside Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo, as one of the two best players in the world of his generation.
He began as a supporting forward, striker, or winger, but recently he has also played in a deeper, creative role, in particular under Maradona, in more of an attacking midfield and play making role.
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