Lionel Messi

Game Style
Messi is an unusual player. He is highly creative, and has the skills to take on defenders with ease. He is a versatile left-footed player who can play either in the middle or on either wing, or even as a centre forward.

Not very tall Messi makes up for the lack of height in speed and agility,allowing him to change speed and direction in a heart beat. Making him a true problem for the larger defenders. Also his shot power and accuracy make him truly unique in free kick and corner situations.

Leo Messi is cool-headed and able to assume several responsibilities in times of need. He is a player who is destined to have a very successful career in football.

He has drawn comparisons to Diego Maradona, and indeed Maradona himself named Messi his “successor”.

Messi’s Background
Lionel Messi was born in Rosario city 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 that cost over £500 a month. Carles Rexach, the 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 club’s youth teams.

Club Football

FC Barcelona
Messi made his unofficial debut for the first team against FC Porto on November 16, 2003. Less than a year later he made his official debut against Espanyol on October 16, 2004, becoming the third-youngest player ever to play for FC Barcelona and youngest club player who played in La Liga (a record broken by team mate Bojan Krkić in September 2007). 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 until 2007 when Bojan Krkić broke this record, a goal assisted by Messi.

Messi made spectacular progress at each of the different age levels, climbing through the ranks of the different youth teams and then Barça C, followed by Barça B and the first team in record time.

In the 2003-2004 season, when he was still only 16, Messi made his first team debut in a friendly with Porto that marked the opening of the new Dragao stadium. The following championship-winning season, Messi made his first appearance in an official match on October 16, 2004, in Barcelona’s derby win against Espanyol at the Olympic Stadium (0-1).

With several first team players seriously injured, the services of several reserve team players were called upon, and Messi became a regular feature of Barça squads. On May 1, 2005, he became the youngest player ever to score a league goal for FC Barcelona – against Albacete when Messi was only 17 years, 10 months and 7 days old. That record would eventually be beaten by Bojan.

At the Under 20 World Cup in Holland, Messi not only won the title with Argentina, but was also the leading goalscorer and was voted best player in the tournament. Aged 18 years, he had become one of the hottest properties in the world game. Shortly after, he made his first full international appearance in a friendly against Hungary.

His breakthrough as a player came in the 2005-06 season, starting with an amazing performance in the Joan Gamper Trophy match against Juventus. He was also outstanding at the Santiago Bernabéu, in Barcelona’s unforgettable 3-0 win, and also at Stamford Bridge, in the Champions League match against Chelsea. Injury kept him sidelined for much of the latter stage of the season. Messi played a total of 17 league games, 6 in the Champions League and 2 in the Copa del Rey. Messi scored eight goals.

International Football

Argentina Under-20
In June 2004, he got his chance, playing in an under-20 friendly match against Paraguay. In 2005 he was part of the team that won the Under-20 World Cup in Holland. He also won the prize for best player of the tournament and became top-scorer.

Argentina National Team
On August 4, 2005, José Pekerman called Messi up to the senior Argentine national team. He made his debut on August 17, 2005 against Hungary, but it was a forgettable occasion. He was substituted on during the 63rd minute, but was sent off after just 40 seconds, because the referee, Markus Merk, found he had elbowed defender Vilmos Vanczák, who was tugging Messi’s shirt, and left the pitch in tears. The decision was contentious. Maradona even claimed the decision was pre-meditated. Messi then had his first international start on September 3 in Argentina’s 0-1 World Cup qualifier away loss against Paraguay. Ahead of the match he had said “This is a re-début. The first one was a bit short.”

Copa America 2007
Messi played his first game in Copa America on 29 June, 2007, when Argentina defeated United States 4-1 in the first game. In this game, Messi showed his capabilities as a playmaker. He set up a goal for fellow striker Hernán Crespo and had numerous shots on target. Tevez came on as a substitute for Messi in the 79th minute and scored minutes later.

His second game was against Colombia, in which he caused a penalty that Crespo converted to tie the game at 1-1. He also played part in Argentina’s second goal as he was fouled outside the box, which allowed Juan Roman Riquelme to score from a freekick, and increase Argentina’s lead to 3-1. The final score of the game was 4-2 in Argentina’s favor and guaranteed them a spot in the tournament’s quarterfinals.

In the third game, against Paraguay the coach rested Messi having already qualified for the quarter-finals. He came off the bench in place of Esteban Cambiasso in the 64th minute, with 0-0. In the 79th minute he created a goal for Javier Mascherano. In the quarterfinals, as Argentina faced Peru, Riquelme made a pass to Messi and the latter scored the second goal for Argentina, which advanced to the semifinals after a 4-0 win.

In the semi finals against Mexico, Messi scored when he spotted the Mexican goalkeeper Oswaldo Sanchez off of his line and chipped the ball into the goal. The goal ultimately helped his team to a 3-0 victory and earned them a place in the final against Brazil, which Argentina subsequently lost 3-0.

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