Argentinian-born in the city of Rosario, Lionel Messi’s passion for football was clear from birth. During his childhood, he would tag along with his two older brothers whenever they played with their friends. Unintimidated by the bigger boys while showing strong potential, he was recruited at the age of eight to join the youth academy of Newell’s Old Boys, a local club in his hometown.
As he remained noticeably smaller than most of the kids in his age-group, Messi was eventually diagnosed as suffering from a hormone deficiency that restricted his growth. At the age of 13, FC Barcelona’s youth academy, recognizing his talent, offered Messi a chance to train at the academy and pay for his medical bills. This resulted in his family deciding to move to Barcelona.
Just three years later, in 2004, Messi made his professional debut for the club, making history as the younger player to ever score a first-team goal. That same year, he would carry Argentina to victory in the U20 FIFA World Cup.
Since then, Messi has gone on to achieve countless triumphs with FC Barcelona. The reign began as early as 2009, when he led the team to a La Liga, UEFA Champion’s League and Spanish Super Cup treble. Later that year he would take home the first of his five Ballon D’Or Awards. He also holds the Guinness World Record for most goals scored in a calendar year with 91 in 2012.
Messi had the choice to either play for the Spanish or Argentinian national teams, eventually opting to play for The Albiceleste, who he felt a closer connection with. Together they advanced to the 2014 FIFA World Cup Final in Brazil, before eventually losing to Germany.
Valuing the importance of giving back, in 2007 he formed the Leo Messi Foundation, which provides opportunities for disadvantaged youths. In early 2010, UNICEF named him a Goodwill Ambassador, with a focus on fighting for children’s rights across the globe.
Off the pitch, Messi remains very reserved about his personal life, making it very clear that family comes first. In 2017, he married Antonella Roccuzzo, his long-term girlfriend, whom he met when he was only five years old. Together they have three sons Thiago, Mateo and Ciro.