Argentine soccer ace Lionel Messi recently won the world player prize for the third time. For Messi, stellar success is a habit. The FC Barcelona forward, who doubles as an attacking midfielder, has won every trophy on offer at club level.
Messi also plays at international level for Argentina. Millions of fans worldwide revere him for the magic he weaves on the turf. Messi’s magic routinely wins him comparisons with soccer legends such as Pele and Maradona.
Learn more about the virtuoso widely seen as the world’s top soccer player.
Ten amazing facts about Lionel Messi
1. Lionel Messi is naturally blessed with talent, which dazzled selectors from the get-go.
Messi’s first contract with Barcelona was written on a paper napkin for reasons of speed. FC Barcelona sporting director Carles Rexach admired Messi’s talent so much that he wanted to make a contract instantly – Rexach used a napkin because he lacked proper paper.
2. Still young, Lionel Messi was born in 1987. His nickname, the Flea, is a nod to two things. The first: his small size – compensated for during his childhood with growth hormone. The second: his irrepressible, darting speed.
3. Lionel Messi is also called Messidona – a play on the name of fellow Argentine dribbling maestro, Diego Maradona.
Just to rub it in, when Maradona was head coach of the Argentine national team, Maradona actually said: “Messi is my Maradona.” The Spanish press calls Messi “Messidona” in honour of one of Messi’s finest moments.
4. In 2008, Messi netted another amazing brace (two goals) against Sevilla, first scoring a volley from 23 metres (25 yards) – an exhilarating sight. For the second goal, Messi dribbled around the goalkeeper, netting from a narrow angle that underscored his instinctive grasp of geometry.
Rewind to 18 April 2007. Then, during a cup semi-final match against the Madrid side Getafe CF, Messi racked up two goals. One was a carbon-copy of Maradona’s Goal of the Century against England at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.
For the miracle goal, Messi ran roughly the same distance – 62 metres (203 feet) – and wrong footed the same number of players – six, including the goalkeeper. Messi even scored from a similar spot, then raced towards the corner flag just as Maradona did in Mexico 21 years earlier.
5. The versatile left-footer can play in the middle or on either wing. Besides, he can operate as a center forward. Messi is the ultimate “utility player”.
6. Messi amply atones for his lack of height through electrifying agility that enables him to switch speed and direction in a split-second. Also highly creative, Messi takes on all-comers with ease.
7. Messi’s runs from midfield are lethal. Once he gets his head down, he borders on unstoppable. Flying tackles go wide of the mark, leaving defenders looking ridiculous.
8. Yet another Messi skill is his blisteringly accurate shot, which makes him deadly at free kicks and corners.
9. Messi’s final magic ingredient is his cool head. Capable of assuming several responsibilities when his team comes under pressure, he rarely sees red.
10. Messi’s August 17, 2005 debut against Hungary was the exception. Then, Messi was sent off in tears after just 40 seconds for elbowing a shirt-tugging defender. After, keen to atone fast, Messi raised his game dramatically.