Net Worth: $350 million
Messi certainly lives up to his title as the best football player in the world, having won the Ballon d'Or a record-breaking five times and three European Golden Shoes. His signature goal celebration of pointing to the sky to thank his late grandma Celia, who helped him on his journey to success, is just one of the reasons why 'Leo' is loved by so many. His 15-year career has seen him take the football world by storm, with the Barcelona vice-captain not stopping anytime soon.
Lionel Messi was born in Argentina, which is where he spent most of his childhood with parents Jorge Horacio Messi and Celia Maria Cuccittini in Rosario, and his siblings Maria, Matias and Rodrigo. Much to the shock of his parents, Leo was diagnosed with an unusual growth hormone deficiency as a child, with him relocating to Spain as a teenager to undergo medical treatment.
Messi’s talent in football was noticed from a very young age. When he was just four years old, Lionel ‘Leo’ Messi was already causing waves at his local football club Grandoli, being coached by his father Jorge Hoacio Messi. His grandmother Celia was the one who took him along to every coaching session, with her insisting his father made the most of her grandson’s impressive talent.
However, Messi’s father wouldn’t hear of Leo being placed in the squad, saying he was ‘just a little boy’. This led to serious tension between the boy’s father coach Jorge and grandma Celia. The young boy began to play left-back position on the field and still managed to score. Celia knew her grandson would go on to be an outstanding soccer player and be known worldwide for his talents, and her predictions later became reality.
When he was six-years old, Messi joined his favourite team Newell’s Old Boys in his beloved native city of Rosario, but his time there wasn’t easy. The group was immensely talented having only lost a single match within four years. During his time with them, Messi scored an incredible 500 goals and came a respected member of the Maquina de la ’87 (The Machine of ’87)- the popular name used to describe the successful youth team.
The time came for Messi to cross the Atlantic ocean and undergo his much-needed treatment that would cure him off his hormone deficiency. Now he was living in Spain, Messi tried his luck in Barcelona, where he was enrolled to the Barcelona Youth Academy. After a year at the Barcelona Youth Academy, Messi was signed up to the Royal Spanish Soccer Federation in February 2002. Upon completion of his growth hormone medication at 14, Messi came to be an essential part of Barcelona’s famous young-stars side.
From anonymity in Argentina to sheer greatness in Barcelona, Messi’s career kick started in 2000 when he was recognized for being the only player to play for five different teams in the junior system ranks. Eventually, he got Spanish citizenship and debuted in the Championship League in 2004. He made spectacular progress, climbing through the ranks from Barca C followed by Barca B and finally the first team. However, a muscle tear in his right thigh led to his premature departure from the league.
The superiority of Messi was seen six months later when he scored his first goal in a game against Barcelona’s rival team Albacete. He created history as the first tender-footed player to ever score in a La Liga match for Barcelona. Messi was now a guaranteed starter for the B team scoring on six occasions out of the 17 game appearances.
During the 2006-07 season, he was in the top starting eleven. Out of the 26 appearances he netted the ball fourteen times with a hat-trick in El Clasico, making history again as the youngest player to score in this fixture.
The football star soon picked up the nickname ‘Messidonna’, due to his speed, relentless attacking technique and goal scoring that mirrored football legend Diego Maradona. For a particular goal, he ran past a count of six players and the goalkeeper inclusive, and ran to the corner flag to celebrate just as Maradona did in the 1986 World cup match against England. In 2007, he came up with the Leo Messi Foundation, a charity institute which gives assistance for access to basic education and fights for the well-being of “The Weak in the Society”.
Remarkably, the soccer genius improved even further as the months went by, discovering better ways to dodge defenders and leaving fans in tears cheering him on. He was the man responsible for leading Barcelona to a staggering five league titles. Inheriting Ronaldinho’s jersey number 10, he recorded 38 goals in the 2008/9 season, earning himself his first Ballon d’Or and FIFA player of the year. Messi surpassed the 38 goal tallies securing Barcelona a third Champions league in six seasons.
In 2012, Messi went on to break records; hat-tricks and quadruples became common for Messi with him helping Barcelona score 7 goals to 1 in the ninetieth minute struggle against Bayer Leverkusen. Messi became the first soccer player to record five goals in a champions league match; and a few weeks later in the third month of the year he broke the club record set at 232 goals by Cesar Rodriguez to become Barcelona’s all-time leading scorer. By the end of the year, Messi had registered an astonishing 91 goals in club and international play, breaking the history of Gerd Muller who netted 85 in a single calendar year 1972. He broke another record and was named the FIFA Ballon d’Or winner the fourth time.
In 2010, France Soccer Magazine ranked Messi as the world’s wealthiest soccer player, outshining David Beckham and Christiano Ronaldo with him being worth $110 million.
Following this, Messi took part in a match against Paris Saint-Germain and subsequently against Atletico Madrid. However, he decided to leave both of them mid-way due to a hamstring injury. As a result of his injury, he was anticipated to miss out on the rest of the season.
Making a comeback from his hamstring injury, he regained the record breaking form by becoming yet again the all-time top scorer in La Liga and Champions League in 2014. Leading Barcelona to a historic second treble in 2015, he was announced FIFA Ballon d’Or winner for the fifth time. Messi has upheld his qualifications on the leading stage with goals in two of three Champions league finals. He has shared the joy of victory with Barcelona, with his accomplishments leaving many in disbelief and proving he is the best player of his generation and possibly of all time.
While Barcelona providentially defended their Copa Del Rey title, they were outclassed by Chelsea in the final qualifier of UEFA Champions League and were also incapable of getting hold of the La Liga title.
On March 2013, Messi scored for the 19th consecutive La Liga game, he emerged being the first soccer player in history to score in successive matches against every team in the league.
The 2015 season began on the best foot. Alongside other core players like Luis Suarez and Neymar Jr, the three scored 122 goals in the whole of the season. Lionel Messi scored 58 goals out of the 122 goals scored collectively.
The Argentine scored his 500th senior career goal for Barcelona on April 17 2016 in Barcelona’s 2–1 home defeat to Valencia. Messi recorded a total of 41 goals in the 2015-16 season and provided 23 assists. Messi claimed the title of the most hat-tricks recorded in the Champions league and scored his 300th goal early in 2016 in their match against Sporting Dijon, winning 3-1 in the away game.
Messi declared his intention to pull out from international soccer play after his national team Argentina lost to Chile in the final of Copa America Centenario on June 26 2016. His native soccer fans are still besieging him to reconsider as he is considered a key player in the national team.
Messi certainly wasn’t an overnight success with it taking time and dedication for him to become the greatest soccer player in our generation. A reigning Ballon d’Or winner on five occasions, the soccer star is not calling it quits anytime soon. Messi is still seen as the best player in the world despite international failures, according to his mentor Ronaldinho. He is constantly winning laurels and surpassing record after record on the field. He has even been named as one of the most prominent persons in the universe by Time in 2011. Messi is upheld as a role model and it’s his social responsibility to carry on aspiring young athletes.
Being a quiet and private character off the pitch, Messi has found ways to help others in need. In 2007, he came up with the Leo Messi Foundation to provide opportunities for the young people who often feel neglected in society. This was in response to his own medical ailments that he faced as a child. In early 2010, UNICEF named him a ‘Goodwill Ambassador’, focusing on fighting for the rights of the young people in the society.
Despite his fame and fortune, Messi still supports his home town club Newell’s Old Boys – funding the restoration of the children’s hospital and liberally contributing towards the youth academy.
Regardless of the recent tax evasion scandal, Messi is regarded as a true team player and receives a lot of support from his fellow Barcelona teammates. The dispute is said to have begun soon after Barcelona announced its campaign branded “We Are All Leo Messi”.
His fans have gone to extreme measures to meet their role model; from running to the field just to have a signed jersey or taking selfies, the immense love for him is evident.
In November 2012, Lionel Messi became a father when his girlfriend Antonella Roccuzzo gave birth to their son, Thiago Messi. Their second son Mateo Messi was born in September 2015. Messi stitched Thiago’s name on every boot he played with, and even went the extra mile by tattooing his name on his left calf, along with the image of his son’s tiny hands. Thiago even has a customized jersey with his father’s iconic number 10 at the back, but in place of Messi, it reads ‘Papi’, what he calls his father.
Antonella Roccuzzo, a model, is remarkably known for her charismatic beauty. Antonella, who studies nutrition science, later reallocated to her boyfriend’s home in Barcelona to stay near him and continue her studies. The Argentinean girl is said to have known Messi since she was young as being the cousin of Lionel’s best friend Lucas Scaglia. She met the eventual footballer at the age of five. A demanding profession and a life of his own to live, Messi was obliged to move from Rosario as a career sacrifice, but kept meeting Antonella during the Christmas holidays. It was in 2009 that they both fell for each other and the couple were spotted together on various occasions including sabbaticals in South Barcelona and Brazil. The couple confirmed their relationship in 2010, and from that moment life has treated them well.
His fame on the pitch has rendered him into many collaborations with brands such as Adidas, PepsiCo, Konami, Audemars Piguet, Huawei and Nike.
He has always been thankful of his granny Celia Oliveira Cuccittini for standing by him when he was young and believing he could fulfil his dreams of becoming an international star.
- Messi: The Inside Story of the Boy Who Became a Legend
- Messi by Guillem Balague
- The Flea- The Amazing Story of Leo Messi by Michael Part