Lionel Andrés Messi Cuccittini is an Argentine professional footballer who plays as a forward and captains both Spanish club Barcelona and the Argentina national team. Often considered the best player in the world and widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time, Messi has won a record six Ballon d’Or awards
and a record six European Golden Shoes. He has spent his entire professional career with Barcelona, where he has won a club-record 34 trophies, including ten La Liga titles, four UEFA Champions League titles and six Copas del Rey. A prolific goalscorer and a creative playmaker, Messi holds the records for most goals in La Liga (433), a La Liga and European league season (50), most hat-tricks in La Liga (35) and the UEFA Champions League (8), and most assists in La Liga (180) and the Copa América (13). He has scored over 700 senior career goals for club and country.
Born and raised in central Argentina, Messi relocated to Spain to join Barcelona at age 13, for whom he made his competitive debut aged 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 he helped Barcelona achieve the first treble in Spanish football; that year, aged 22, Messi won his first Ballon d’Or. Three successful seasons followed, with Messi winning three consecutive Ballons d’Or, including an unprecedented fourth. During the 2011–12 season, he set the La Liga and European records for most goals scored in a single season, while establishing himself as Barcelona’s all-time top scorer. The following two seasons, Messi 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, after which he was awarded a fifth Ballon d’Or in 2015. Messi assumed the captaincy of Barcelona in 2018, and in 2019 he secured a record sixth Ballon d’Or.
An Argentine international, Messi is his country’s all-time leading goalscorer. At youth level, he won the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship, finishing the tournament with both the Golden Ball and Golden Shoe, and an Olympic gold medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics. His style of play as a diminutive, left-footed dribbler drew comparisons with his compatriot Diego Maradona, who described Messi as his successor. After his senior debut in August 2005, Messi became the youngest Argentine to play and score in a FIFA World Cup during the 2006 edition, and reached the final of the 2007 Copa América, where he was named young player of the tournament. As the squad’s captain from August 2011, he led Argentina to three consecutive finals: the 2014 FIFA World Cup, for which he won the Golden Ball, and the 2015 and 2016 Copas América. After announcing his international retirement in 2016, he reversed his decision and led his country to qualification for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, and a third-place finish at the 2019 Copa América.
One of the most famous athletes in the world, Messi has been sponsored by sportswear company Adidas since 2006 and has established himself as their leading brand endorser. According to France Football, Messi 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. He was among Time‘s 100 most influential people in the world in 2011 and 2012.
Lionel Andrés Messi was born on 24 June 1987 in Rosario, the third of the 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 northcentral Adriatic Marche region of Italy and Catalonia, and on his mother’s side, he has primarily Italian ancestry 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. 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. 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 of his grandmother
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. However, his future as a professional player was threatened when, at age 10, he was diagnosed with a growth hormone deficiency. As his father’s health insurance covered only two years of growth hormone treatment, which cost at least $1,000 per month, Newell’s agreed to contribute, but later reneged on their promise. He was scouted by Buenos Aires club River Plate, whose playmaker, Pablo Aimar, he idolised, but they were also unable to pay for his treatment due to the country’s economic collapse. His goalscoring idol growing up was Ronaldo, with Messi calling him “the best forward I’ve ever seen”
During the 2003–04 season, his fourth with Barcelona, Messi rapidly progressed through the club’s ranks, debuting for a record five teams in a single campaign. After being named player of the tournament in four international pre-season competitions with the Juveniles B, he played only one official match with the team before being promoted to the Juveniles A, where he scored 18 goals in 11 league games. Messi was then one of several youth players called up to strengthen a depleted first team during the international break. French winger Ludovic Giuly explained how a teenage Leo caught the eye in a training session with Frank Rijkaard’s first team: “He destroyed us all… They were kicking him all over the place to avoid being ridiculed by this kid, he just got up and kept on playing. He would dribble past four players and score a goal. Even the team’s starting centre-backs were nervous. He was an alien.”
At 16 years, four months, and 23 days old, Messi made his first team debut when he came on in the 75th minute during a friendly against José Mourinho’s Porto on 16 November 2003. His performance, creating two chances and a shot on goal, impressed the technical staff, and he subsequently began training daily with the club’s reserve side, Barcelona B, as well as weekly with the first team. After his first training session with the senior squad, Barça’s new star player, Ronaldinho, told his teammates that he believed the 16-year-old would become an even better player than himself. Ronaldinho soon befriended Messi, whom he called “little brother”, which greatly eased his transition into the first team
On 5 August 2019, it was announced that Messi would miss Barcelona’s US tour after sustaining a right calf injury. On 19 August, Messi’s chipped goal from the edge of the box against Real Betis was nominated for the 2019 FIFA Puskás Award Later that month, he suffered another setback following the return of his calf injury, which ruled him out of the opening game of the season; as a result, he was sidelined indefinitely, and was only expected to return to action with Barcelona after the September international break. On 2 September, Messi was shortlisted as one of the three finalists for both the 2019 FIFA Puskás Award and the 2019 Best FIFA Men’s Player Award, with Messi winning the latter on 23 September
Messi made his first appearance of the season on 17 September, and on 6 October he scored his first goal of the season with a free kick in a 4–0 home win over Sevilla; this was his 420th goal in La Liga, which saw him break Cristiano Ronaldo’s record of 419 goals scored in Europe’s top five leagues. On 23 October, Messi scored his first Champions League goal of the season in a 2–1 away win over Slavia Prague, becoming the first player to score in 15 consecutive Champions League seasons (excluding qualifying rounds) He also equalled Raúl and Cristiano Ronaldo’s shared record of the most sides scored against in the competition (33). On 29 October, Messi scored and assisted twice in a 5–1 home win over Real Valladolid in La Liga; his first goal – a set piece from 35 yards – was the 50th free-kick of his career. His goals (608) also saw him overtake Cristiano Ronaldo’s senior goal tally (606) at club level.On 9 November, Messi scored three goals (including two free kicks) in a 4–1 home win against Celta Vigo. This was his 34th hat-trick in La Liga, equalling Cristiano Ronaldo’s Spanish top-flight record. On 27 November, in what was his 700th appearance for Barcelona, Messi scored one goal and assisted two more in a 3–1 home win over Borussia Dortmund in the UEFA Champions League. Borussia Dortmund was the 34th team he had scored against in the competition, breaking the previous record of 33 held by Cristiano Ronaldo and Raúl. On 2 December, Messi was awarded a record-breaking sixth Ballon d’Or. On 8 December, Messi scored his record-breaking 35th hat-trick in La Liga with three goals in Barcelona’s 5–2 home win over Mallorca
Comparisons to Cristiano Ronaldo
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 Ali–Joe Frazier rivalry in boxing, the Björn Borg–John McEnroerivalry in tennis, and the Ayrton Senna–Alain Prost rivalry from Formula One motor racing. Although Messi has at times denied any rivalry, they are widely believed to push one another in their aim to be the best player in the world: since 2008, Messi has won six Ballons d’Or to Ronaldo’s five, six FIFA World’s Best Player awards to Ronaldo’s five, and six European Golden Shoes to Ronaldo’s four. Pundits and fans regularly argue the individual merits of both players; beyond their playing styles, the debate also revolves around their differing physiques—Ronaldo is 1.87 m (6 ft 1 1⁄2 in) with a muscular build—and contrasting public personalities, with Ronaldo’s self-confidence and theatrics a foil to Messi’s humility.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. Off the pitch, Ronaldo is his direct competitor in terms of salary, sponsorships, and social media fanbase
Family and relationships
Since 2008, Messi has been in a relationship with Antonella Roccuzzo, a fellow native of Rosario.He has known Roccuzzo since he was five years old, as she is the cousin of his best friend since childhood, Lucas Scaglia, who is also a football player. 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.
Messi and Roccuzzo have three sons: Thiago (born 2012), Mateo (born 2015) and Ciro (born 2018). 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. Thiago was born in Barcelona on 2 November 2012, with Messi attending the birth after being given permission by Barcelona to miss training. He announced his son’s arrival on his Facebook page, writing, “Today I am the happiest man in the world, my son was born and thanks to God for this gift!” Thiago’s name and handprints are tattooed on his left calf. In April 2015, Messi confirmed on Facebook that they were expecting another child He missed training ahead of a match against Atlético Madrid to attend the birth of his second son, Mateo, on 11 September 2015 in Barcelona.On 30 June 2017, he married Roccuzzo at a luxury hotel named Hotel City Center in Rosario with about 260 guests attending his wedding On 15 October 2017, his wife announced they were expecting their third child in an Instagram post, with the words “Family of 5”. On 10 March 2018, Messi skipped the match against Málaga after Ciro was born.
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 organisation, the Leo Messi Foundation, and take care of personal and professional matters in Rosario.
Since leaving for Spain at age 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 currently lives in Castelldefels, a village near Barcelona. Although considered a one-club man, he has long planned to return to Rosario to end his playing career at Newell’s. 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.