Wednesday Jun 24, 1987 to Present
Argentina, SpainArgentine professional footballer who plays as a forward and captains both FC 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.
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.
As the Messi family had relatives in Catalonia, they sought to arrange a trial with Barcelona in September 2000. First team director Charly Rexach immediately wanted to sign him, but the board of directors hesitated; at the time it was highly unusual for European clubs to sign foreign players of such a young age.
Selectors for Spain's Under-17 squad began pursuing him in 2003 after Barcelona's director of football, Carles Rexach, alerted the Royal Spanish Football Federation to their young player. Messi declined the offer, having aspired to represent La Albiceleste since childhood.
During a Copa del Rey semi-final against Getafe on 18 April, he scored a goal remarkably similar to Maradona's goal in the quarter-finals of the 1986 FIFA World Cup, known as the Goal of the Century. Messi collected the ball on the right side near the halfway line, ran 60 metres (66 yd), and beat five defenders before scoring with an angled finish, just as Maradona had done.
After two unsuccessful seasons, Barcelona were in need of an overhaul, leading to the departure of Rijkaard and Ronaldinho. Upon the latter's departure, Messi was given the number 10 shirt. He signed a new contract in July 2008 on an annual salary of €7.8 million, becoming the club's highest-paid player.
Football at the 2008 Summer Olympics was held in Beijing and several other cities in the People's Republic of China from 6 to 23 August. Associations affiliated with FIFA were invited to send their full women's national teams and men's U-23 teams to participate. Men's teams were allowed to augment their squad with three players over the age of 23. Argentina won the tournament.
During the Clásico on 2 May 2009, however, he played for the first time as a false nine, positioned as a center-forward but dropping deep into midfield to link up with Xavi and Andrés Iniesta. He assisted his side's first goal and scored twice to end the match in an emphatic 6–2 victory, the team's greatest-ever score at Real Madrid's Santiago Bernabéu Stadium.
La Masia, the FC Barcelona academy, achieved a record-breaking honor in becoming the first youth academy ever to have all three finalists for the Ballon d'Or in one same year, with Lionel Messi, Andrés Iniesta and Xavi. Messi won the award, his second consecutive Ballon d'Or victory.
Messi scored both goals in his side's 2–0 win in the first leg of the Champions League semi-finals in Madrid, the second of which – a slaloming dribble past three Real players – was acclaimed as one of the best ever in the competition. Although he did not score, he was again important in the second-leg draw that sent Barcelona through to the Champions League final.
The 2011 UEFA Champions League Final was a football match played on 28 May 2011 at Wembley Stadium in London that decided the winner of the 2010–11 season of the UEFA Champions League. The final was contested by Barcelona of Spain and Manchester United of England, the same teams which contested the 2009 final held in Rome which Barcelona won 2–0.
The 2011 FIFA Ballon d'Or Gala was the second year for FIFA's awards for the top football players and coaches of the year. The awards were given out in Zürich on 9 January 2012, with Lionel Messi claiming the title of world player of the year for the third time in a row.
A double scored on 9 December against Real Betis saw Messi break two longstanding records: he surpassed César Rodríguez's record of 190 league goals, becoming Barcelona's all-time top scorer in La Liga, and Gerd Müller's record of most goals scored in a calendar year, overtaking his 85 goals scored in 1972 for Bayern Munich and West Germany. Messi sent Müller a number 10 Barcelona shirt, signed "with respect and admiration", after breaking his 40-year record. At the close of the year, Messi had scored a record 91 goals in all competitions for Barcelona and Argentina.
The 2012 FIFA Ballon d'Or Gala was the third year for FIFA's awards for the top football players and coaches of the year. The awards were given out in Zürich on 7 January 2013., with Lionel Messi winning a record fourth consecutive Ballon d'Or.
Messi was ineffective during the first leg against Bayern Munich and was unable to play at all during the second, as Barcelona were defeated 7–0 on aggregate by the eventual champions. The first leg was played at Aliens Arena and Bayern finished with "4:0" on 23 April 2013, while the second leg was played at Camp Nou and Bayern finished with "3:0" on 1 May 2013 as well.
Messi scored twice and assisted on another in their 3–0 semi-final victory over Bayern Munich, now under the stewardship of Guardiola. His second goal, which came only three minutes after his first, saw him chip the ball over goalkeeper Manuel Neuer after his dribble past Jérôme Boateng had made the defender drop to the ground; it went viral, becoming the year's most tweeted-about sporting moment, and was named the best goal of the season by UEFA. It's interesting, that Neuer argued that he would show Messi who is the Boss.
After the match, Messi, who had missed his penalty in the shootout, announced his retirement from international football. Messi stated, "I tried my hardest. The team has ended for me, a decision made". Following his announcement, a campaign began in Argentina for Messi to change his mind about retiring. He was greeted by fans with signs like "Don't go, Leo" when the team landed in Buenos Aires. President of Argentina Mauricio Macri urged Messi not to quit, stating, "We are lucky, it is one of life's pleasures, it is a gift from God to have the best player in the world in a footballing country like ours... Lionel Messi is the greatest thing we have in Argentina and we must take care of him." Mayor of Buenos Aires Horacio Rodríguez Larreta unveiled a statue of Messi in the capital to convince him to reconsider retirement. On social networks, NoTeVayasLeo became a global trending topic and even a playlist on Spotify. The campaign also continued in the streets and avenues of the Argentine capital, with about 50,000 supporters going to the Obelisco de Buenos Aires on 2 July, using the same slogan.
Just a week after Messi announced his international retirement, Argentine newspaper La Nación reported that he was reconsidering playing for Argentina at the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers in September. On 12 August, it was confirmed that Messi had reversed his decision to retire from international football, and he was included in the squad for the national team's upcoming 2018 World Cup qualifiers.
Argentina's place in the 2018 World Cup was in jeopardy going into their final qualifying match as they were sixth in their group, outside the five possible CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying spots, meaning they risked failing to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1970. On 10 October 2017, Messi led his country to World Cup qualification in scoring a hat-trick as Argentina came from behind to defeat Ecuador 3–1 away; Argentina had not defeated Ecuador in Quito since 2001.
Following on from their poor qualification campaign, salvaged by Messi, expectations were not high going into the 2018 World Cup. In the round of 16 match against eventual champions France on 30 June, Messi set up Gabriel Mercado's and Sergio Agüero's goals in a 4–3 defeat, which saw Argentina eliminated from the World Cup.
Barcelona suffered a 4–0 away defeat, which saw Liverpool advance to the final 4–3 on aggregate, leaving the UEFA Champions League. Six days before, Messi scored twice in a 3–0 home win over Liverpool in the first leg of the Champions League semi-finals; his second goal of the match, a 35-yard free-kick, was the 600th senior club goal of his career, all of which had been scored with Barcelona.
On August 26, Barcelona's sporting director Ramon Planes iterated the club's desire to "build a team around the most important player in the world" and affirmed Messi will only be able to leave should a buyer pay his €700 million buyout clause; a reported early termination option available in Messi's contract (which would have allowed him to leave the club for free) could only be exercised if he had communicated his decision to Barcelona by 31 May 2020, although the player's representatives argued the deadline should be set to 31 August, due to the adjourned 2019–20 season. On 30 August, La Liga issued a statement stating Messi's contract and buyout clause are still active.
Later that evening, Messi announced in an interview with Goal that he would continue in Barcelona for the final year of his contract. In the interview, Messi claimed to have informed Barcelona of his desire to leave multiple times, and club president Josep Bartomeu said Messi could decide at the end of every season if he could stay or leave, only for Bartomeu to refer to the release clause. This left Messi with two options: to stay or go to court against the club, with the player saying "I would never go to court against the club of my life".