Lionel Messi

Lionel Andrés Messi (born 24 June 1987 in Rosario, Argentina) is an Argentine international football player, who currently plays for FC Barcelona in the Primera División. Often touted in the media as New Maradona, Messi has been publicly named as his "successor" by Diego Maradona.

Lionel Messi was born in Santa Fe Province on June 24, 1987. At the age of five, he started playing football for Grandoli, a club coached by his father. In 1995, Messi switched to Newell's Old Boys. At the age of 11, he was diagnosed with a growth hormone deficiency. River Plate showed interest in Messi's progress, but did not have enough money to pay for the treatment of the illness, which cost over £500 a month. As Argentina's economy was collapsing, Carles Rexach, then sporting director of FC Barcelona, was made aware of Messi's talent, and Barcelona signed him after watching him play, offering to pay for the medical bills if he was willing to move to start a new life in Spain. His family moved with the young player to Europe and he starred in the clubs youth teams.

He soon found himself starting for the Barcelona B team, averaging more than a goal per game, by scoring 37 goals in 30 matches.

In October 2004 Messi made his official debut for the first team against RCD Espanyol, becoming the third-youngest player to ever play for FC Barcelona. When he scored his first senior goal for the club against Albacete Balompié on May 1, 2005, Messi was 17 years, 10 months and 7 days old, becoming the youngest to ever score in a La Liga game for FC Barcelona.

Messi was offered the chance to play for the Spanish national side, but he declined, preferring to wait for the opportunity to play for the country of his birth. In June 2004 he got his chance, playing in an under-20 friendly match against Paraguay.

In June 2005 Messi played in the U-20 team that won the Football World Youth Championship in Netherlands, picking up the Golden Boot as top scorer with 6 goals, and the Golden Ball for the best player of the tournament. Despite his youth, Lionel was already being compared to Diego Maradona, one of the greatest football players of all time. On June 27, FC Barcelona renewed his contract until 2010, establishing a selling clause of €150 million (which happens to be 30 million more than his teammate in Barcelona, Ronaldinho).

On August 4, José Pekerman called him up to the senior Argentine national team. He made his debut against Hungary being put in in the 63rd minute, but was sent off after just 40 seconds, because the referee Markus Merk found he had elbowed the defender Vilmos Vanczak who was tugging Messi's shirt, and left the pitch in tears. The decision was heavily contested as Maradona even claimed the decision was pre-meditated. Messi then had his first real international debut on September 3 in Argentina's 0-1 World Cup qualifier away loss against Paraguay playing the last eight minutes of the match. Ahead of the match he had said "This is a re-debut. The first one was a bit short"

Messi obtained Spanish citizenship on September 25 and was finally able to make his debut in this season's Spanish First Division. He had previously been unable to play because FC Barcelona had filled their quota of non-EU players. Messi's first home outing in the UEFA Champions League came on September 27 against Italian club Udinese. He impressed with some great passing and a seemingly telepathic relationship with Ronaldinho that earned him a standing ovation from the 70,000-odd Nou Camp faithful. In December of that year, the Italian newspaper Tuttosport awarded him the Golden Boy 2005 title for the best under-21 player in Europe, ahead of Wayne Rooney, Lukas Podolski, and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Messi netted 6 goals from 17 league appearances and scored 1 Champions League goal from the 6 games he featured in. His reputation for big match temperament was helped by performances in Barcelona's important away leg victories against Real Madrid and Chelsea in the league and Champions League respectively, each considered his best of the respective campaign. Messi's season ended prematurely on March 7, 2006, when he tore a muscle in his right thigh during the second leg of the second round Champions League tie against Chelsea. Barcelona ended the season as champions of Spain and Europe.

The injury that kept him from playing for two months at the end of the 2005/06 league, jeopardized his presence in the 2006 FIFA World Cup. Nonetheless, Messi was selected in the Argentina squad for the 2006 FIFA World Cup on May 15, 2006. He also played in the farewell match against the Argentinian U-20 team for fifteen minutes and a friendly against Angola from the 64th minute.

Messi witnessed Argentina's opening match win against Ivory Coast from the bench because the manager Pekerman wanted to shield him from the pressure. In the next match against Serbia and Montenegro, he came on as a substitute for Maxi Rodríguez in the 74th minute. In doing so he became the youngest player to represent Argentina at a World Cup. He assisted Hernán Crespo's goal within minutes of entering the game and also scored the final goal in the 6-0 victory. This goal made him the youngest scorer in the 2006 World Cup and the sixth youngest scorer in World Cup history, Pelé being the youngest. Messi started in Argentina's following 0-0 tie against the Netherlands as a forward. Fellow striker Carlos Tevez and he were not allowed any space by the Dutch defence, which prevented him from causing any damage and he was substituted in the 69th minute.

In the following game against Mexico, Messi came on as a substitute for Javier Saviola in the 84th minute, with the score tied 1-1. He scored a goal, which was controversially ruled offside. Argentina proceeded to win the game 2-1 in extra time. Messi controversially spent the entire quarter-finals match against Germany, which Argentina lost in a penalty shootout, on the bench.

Messi maintained his reputation as a big match player when he tricked Brazilian full back Roberto Carlos making him fall over and break a finger during one particularly deft move. His 89th minute equaliser away to Werder Bremen was pivotal in Barcelona's qualification to the Champions League knock out phase. Messi had another long lay off with a broken metatarsal which kept him out for 3 months. He sustained the injury in a game against Real Zaragoza on November 12, after tackles from Alberto Zapater and Albert Celades. On 5 January 2007, Spanish newspaper El Mundo Deportivo reported that Internazionale president Massimo Moratti was planning a £71 million bid for Messi; however, Moratti denied any immediate plans to sign Messi in an interview posted on Internazionale's official website. He made his return against Racing Santander on the 11th of February, where he came on as a second-half substitute. On March 10, 2007 he scored a hat-trick against Real Madrid in El Clásico, with his third goal coming in injury time to earn 10-man Barcelona the draw 3-3 at home to Real Madrid. Messi was the first player to score a hat-trick in El Clásico since Iván Zamorano did it for Real Madrid in the 1994-95 season, and the first Barcelona player to do it since Romario scored three against Real Madrid in the 1993-94 season, and against Recreativo he scored again. This was his 7th goal. He scored again against Deportivo, from a wonderful pass from Ronaldinho. This was his 8th goal in the 2006-07 season.

On April 18, 2007, Messi scored two goals during a Copa del Rey semifinal against Getafe CF, one of which was very similar to Maradona's famous goal against England at the 1986 FIFA World Cup in Mexico, known as the Goal of the Century. Messi's goal is already considered a major contender for the best goal of the year. The world's sports press exploded with Maradona comparisons, and the Spanish press labeled Messi "Messidona". He ran about the same distance (62 metres), beat the same number of players (six, including the goalkeeper), scored from a very similar position, and ran towards the corner flag just as Maradona did in Mexico 21 years before.Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
Virtual Magic is a human knowledge database blog. Text Based On Information From Wikipedia, Under The GNU Free Documentation License. Copyright (c) 2007 Virtual Magic. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

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