Lionel Messi is the heir apparent to the throne left vacant by Diego Armando Maradona. The waters are divided between those who consider him to be far from being the best No. 10, and those who believe that Messi will be even better than Maradona.
Born in Rosario, he cut his teeth in the youth ranks of Newell's Old Boys, until a hormonal problem that affected his growth changed the plans of his family and, of course, his personal future. Facing expensive treatment for their son, Messi's parents moved to Spain as Newell's were not able to afford the medical costs related to his condition, and even the wealthiest Argentine teams, such as River Plate, refused to foot the bill.
After his first trial with Barcelona, the Catalan coaches had no doubts. They decided to sign Messi and pay for his medical treatment. His growth was noticeable within Barca, and in little time he came to be considered one of the great talents at the club. He made his debut in the first division in October 2004, against Espanyol, and Barcelona have since adopted him as one of their greatest idols.
His first championship would come in the Liga season of 2004-05. Since then, and playing a more prominent role every season, he has won every major club trophy at Camp Nou - including a stunning haul of six in 2008-09 - and claimed the World Player of the Year award three times in three years, leaving many in little doubt as to the fact that Messi is the best player of his generation; possibly of all-time.
That idea was given further weight in March 2012 when, at the age of 24, he became the all-time top scorer at Barcelona - beating the 232 goals of Cesar Rodriguez.
Strengths: His ball skills are second to none, his runs from midfield are usually lethal and he is almost impossible to tackle when he gets his head down. His balance when running at speed is incredible.
Weaknesses: Too often he searches for a way to finish moves by himself without looking for team-mates in a better position to shoot at goal.
Career high: Winning the 2009, 2010 and 2011 World Player of the Year awards.
Career low: He was unable to perform to his best in the 2006 World Cup in Germany, where Argentina were eliminated in the quarter-finals with Messi looking on from the bench.
Style: Quick, incisive, balanced, a stylish runner with the ball.
Quotes: "Messi is my Maradona," said Maradona himself, as the head coach of the Argentine national team.
Trivia: His debut with the national team (against Hungary) was a disaster: he entered the game in the 18th minute of the second half, and 47 seconds later was sent off.
|GS: Games Started, SB: Used as Substitute, G: Goals, A: Assists, SH: Shots, SG: Shots on goal, YC: Yellow Cards, RC: Red Cards, FC: Fouls Committed, FS: Fouls Suffered, SV: Saves, OF: Offsides, W: W, D: Draws, L: Losses|