Lionel “Leo” Messi is an Argentine footballer widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time. He plays as a forward for both Spanish club Barcelona and the Argentina national team.
Born in 1987 in Rosario, Argentina, Messi moved to Spain at age 13 to join Barcelona’s youth academy after being diagnosed with a growth hormone deficiency. He made his competitive debut for Barcelona at 17 and has spent his entire professional career at the club.
Messi holds a number of records for both Barcelona and La Liga’s (Spain’s top division) all-time scoring. He has won a club record 35 trophies with Barcelona, including 10 La Liga titles, 7 Copa Del Rey titles and 4 UEFA Champions League titles. Individually, Messi has won a record 6 Ballon d’Or (World Player of the Year) awards, as well as 6 European Golden Shoes for top scorer in Europe.
For Argentina, Messi has played over 150 matches since his debut in 2005. He led Argentina to the finals of the 2014 World Cup and the 2015 and 2016 Copa America tournaments, though they finished runner-up in each. Messi finally won his first major international trophy in 2021, leading Argentina to victory in the Copa America.
Some highlights of Messi’s career include scoring a La Liga record 50 goals in the 2011-12 season, leading Barcelona to two historic trebles (winning La Liga, Copa del Rey and Champions League in one season) in 2008-09 and 2014-15, and breaking the record for most goals scored in La Liga (474) and the most hat-tricks scored in the Champions League (8).
Known for his short stature, speed, dribbling and finishing abilities, Messi has been Barcelona’s star player for over 15 years. His consistent creativity, vision and ability to manufacture chances and goals from nothing make him one of the most exciting players to watch.
Off the field, Messi maintains a relatively private lifestyle centered around family in his home city of Barcelona. He has been an ambassador for UNICEF since 2010 and launched the Leo Messi Foundation in 2007 to provide opportunities for disadvantaged youth.
Messi has faced controversies over alleged tax evasion and an abrupt retirement from Argentina in 2016. However, he has inspired legions of fans globally not only for his historic success with Barcelona but also for his moments of brilliance and winning mentality for Argentina, including scoring a last-minute game winner against Iran at the 2018 World Cup that kept their tournament hopes alive.