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Getting To Know: Lionel Messi

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Full name: Lionel Andrés Messi
Squad No: 10
Position: Forward
Date of birth: 24 June 1987
Place of birth: Rosario, Argentina
Height: 1.69 m (5 ft 7 in)
Weight: 67 kg (148 lbs)

Lionel Messi was born into a working class family in the city of Rasario in the Santa Fe province. He started playing football at the age of five for Grandoli, a local club coached by his father. In 1995 he joined the Newell's Old Boys, the biggest club of his hometown.

Three years later he was diagnosed with a growth hormone deficiency, a disease, that according to analysis of doctors from River Plate, a team interested in his services, he would not grow taller that 1.40m (4ft 7in) unless treated properly. River plate were willing to sign the exciting youngster, but they couldn't cover his medical expenses, a bill of $900 a month, an amount that even his parents weren't able to pay.

When he turned 13, Leo and his father, Jorge, traveled to their relatives in Barcelona and while there, they were able to set up a meeting with Carles Rexach, the technical director of FC Barcelona. He was immediately impressed with Messi's abilities. They signed the contract on a paper napkin, offering to pay the medical expenses if Messi was willing to move to Barcelona. The whole family then moved to Spain and Messi made spectacular progress through Barcelona's youth teams and joined Barcelona C, B and the first team in record time. His skills were so impressive that he only played in 22 games for the B team before he was called up. He scored six goals in the short stint with the second team.

La Pulga's official debut for the first team came in the league against Espanyol at the age of 17 years and 114 days and broke the record for the youngest player to play for Barcelona in the league. He went on to brake several youth related records, but since then all of them have been broken by fellow youngster Bojan. With many players out injured, he became a starter and played on the wing. The following season Messi established himself as a regular first team player and he was having a very good year until he suffered a season ending thigh injury.

Messi made a full recovery and the next season he started to make a name for himself, especially with the hat-trick against Real Madrid. He was on the fast track to become one of the best players in the world and he was still only 20 years old. He became a regular recipient of different awards and a constant in the top three of the World Player of the Year awards. He is considered as the best player in the world and despite the fact that every season he seems to brake new records, he always has another gear left in case the team needs something more. So far, in his brilliant career, he has made 249 appearances for the first team of FC Barcelona during which he scored 167 goals and assisted on another 69 of them.

Just as in the world of club football, Messi became a feature in club very early in his career, he made his debut for the U-20 team in 2004, as still just a 16 year old. He was an integral part of the U-20 World Cup winning team in 2005. Leo made his senior debut already at the age of 18 and has been a starter since then. He has appeared in 54 games, scored 16 goals and assisted on 10 for La Albiceleste.

Profile
Lionel Messi is an unique player. He has been able to overcome his height problems and develop ball skills that are second to none. He's a quick, extremely balanced and versatile player that can play in the midfield, on either wing or even as a striker. Messi possesses a lethal touch with his natural left foot, but he is also a strong finisher with his right. He has tremendous vision, but he often tries to finish the play himself instead of searching for teammates in a better position. Messi is also a specialist of dead ball situations, especially penalty kicks and free kicks from the right side.

Honors
Barcelona

  • La Liga (4): 2004-05, 2005-06, 2008-09, 2009-10

  • Copa del Rey (1): 2008-09

  • Supercopa de España (4): 2005, 2006, 2009, 2010

  • UEFA Champins League (2): 2005-06, 2008-09

  • UEFA Super Cup (1): 2009

  • FIFA World Cup (1): 2009

Argentina

  • FIFA U-20 World Cup (1): 2005

  • Olympic Gold Medal (1): 2008

Individual

  • Ballon d'Or (1): 2009

  • FIFA World Player of the Year (1): 2009

  • FIFA Ballon d'Or (1): 2010

  • U-21 European Footballer of the Year (1): 2007

  • FIFA Team of the Year (3): 2008, 2009, 2010

  • UEFA Team of the Year (3): 2008, 2009, 2010

  • Onze d'Or (1): 2009

  • La Liga Foreign Player of the Year (3): 2007, 2009, 2010

  • La Liga Ibero-American Player of the Year (3): 2007, 2009, 2010

  • La Liga Player of the Year (1): 2009

  • La Liga Forward of the Year (1): 2009

  • Marca La Liga Player of the Year (2): 2009. 2010

  • Pichichi Trophy (1): 2010

  • FC Barcelona top goalscorer (1): 2009, 2010

  • European Golden Shoe (1): 2010

  • UEFA Champions League Top Goalscorer (2): 2009, 2010

  • UEFA Champions League Player of the Year (1): 2009

  • UEFA Champions League Forward of the Year (1): 2009

  • UEFA Champions League Final Fan's Man of the Match (1): 2009

  • Footballer of the Year of Argentina (5): 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010

  • FIFPro World Player of the Year (2): 2009, 2010

  • FIFPro World XI (4): 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010

  • FIFPro World Young Player of the Year (3): 2006, 2007, 2008

  • FIFPro Special Young Player of the Year (2): 2007, 2008

  • FIFA U-20 World Cup Player of the Tournament (1): 2005

  • FIFA U-20 World Cup Top Goalscorer (1): 2005

  • Copa América Young Player of the Tournament (1): 2007

  • World Soccer Player of the Year (1): 2009

  • World Soccer Young Player of the Year (3): 2006, 2007, 2008

  • FIFA Club World Cup Golden Ball (1): 2009

  • ESM Team of the Year (4): 2005-06, 2007-08, 2008-09, 2009-10

  • Marca Leyenda (1): 2009

  • Tuttosport Golden Boy (1): 2005

  • UEFA Best Goal of the Year (1): 2007

  • The Sun World Team of the Decade (1): 2000-2009

  • Fox Sports Award Best Ibero-American Player: 2009

In September 2009 Leo signed an extension to his existing contract. The forward's agreement ends in 2016 and his buyout clause is set at an breathtaking €250 million.

Next up: Jeffrén

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