Lionel Messi Career
At the age of five, Messi started playing football for Grandoli. In 1995, Messi switched to Newell's Old Boys. At the age of 11, he was diagnosed with a growth hormone deficiency. River Plate showed interest in Messi's progress, but did not have enough money to pay for the treatment of the illness that cost $1500 a month. Carles Rexach, the sporting director of FC Barcelona, was made aware of Messi's talent, and Barcelona signed him after watching him play, offering to pay for the medical bills if he was willing to move to start a new life in Spain. His family moved to Europe and he started in the club's youth teams.
Messi made his unofficial debut for the first team against FC Porto on 16 November 200 (at 16 years and 145 days). Less than a year later he made his official debut against Espanyol on 16 October 2004 (at 17 years and 114 days), becoming the third-youngest player ever to play for FC Barcelona and youngest club player who played in La Liga (a record broken by team mate Bojan Krkic in September 2007). When he scored his first senior goal for the club against Albacete Balompié on 1 May 2005, Messi was 17 years, 10 months and 7 days old, becoming the youngest to ever score in a La Liga game for FC Barcelona until 2007 when Bojan Krkic broke this record, scoring off a Messi assist.
On 16 September, for the second time in three months, Barcelona announced an update to Messi's contract - this time improved to pay him as a first team member and extended till June 2014. Messi obtained Spanish citizenship on 25 September and was finally able to make his début in the season's Spanish First Division. He had previously been unable to play because FC Barcelona had filled their quota of non-EU players. Messi's first home outing in the UEFA Champions League came on 27 September against Italian club Udinese He impressed with some great passing and a seemingly telepathic relationship with Ronaldinho that earned him a standing ovation from the 70,000-odd Nou Camp faithful.
Messi netted six goals in seventeen league appearances, and scored one Champions League goal in six. However, his season ended prematurely on 7 March 2006 when he suffered a muscle tear in his right thigh during the second leg of the second round Champions League tie against Chelsea. Barcelona ended the season as champions of Spain and Europe.
Messi shortly before scoring the goal against Getafe.
Consistently strong performances and the occasional goal meant Messi was not starting any more games on the bench. Failure to effectively replace the injured Samuel Eto'o and poor defensive displays prevented Barcelona from taking advantage of Messi's showings against Chelsea and Real Madrid. This would later prove critical to their title challenges. On 12 November, in the game against Real Zaragoza, Messi suffered a broken metatarsal from tackles, ruling him out for months. Messi carried out his recuperation in native Argentina. During this period there were rumours of interest in the player from Inter Milan. Messi returned to action against Racing Santander on the 11 February, coming on as a second-half substitute. Rijkaard carefully managed his complete return, gradually increasing playing minutes with each game. One month since his return, on the 10th of March, he played his first full league match since the injury, Real Madrid being the opposition. Once again, El Clásico saw Messi in top form, scoring a hat-trick to earn 10-man Barcelona a - draw, equalising thrice and with the final goal coming in injury time. In doing so he became the first player since Iván Zamorano (for Real Madrid in the 1994-95 season) and the first Barcelona player since Romario (199-94 season) to hit a hat-trick in the El Clásico. Messi is also the youngest player ever to have scored in this fixture. The game also marked the beginning of Messi's best spell of form with Barça. He also began finding the net more often, 11 of his 14 league goals for the season coming from the last 1 games.
Messi also proved the "new Maradona" tag was not all hype, by near-replicating Maradona's most famous goals in the space of the single season. On 18 April 2007, he scored two goals during a Copa del Rey semi-final against Getafe CF, one of which was very similar to Maradona's famous goal against England at the 1986 FIFA World Cup in Mexico, known as the Goal of the Century. The world's sports press exploded with Maradona comparisons, and the Spanish press labelled Messi as "Messidona". He ran about the same distance (62 m), beat the same number of players (six, including the goalkeeper), scored from a very similar position, and ran towards the corner flag just as Maradona did in Mexico 21 years before. In a press conference after the game, Messi's team-mate Deco said: "There's no other like Leo." Against Espanyol Messi also scored with his hand in a goal remarkably similar to Maradona's goal against England in the world cup quarter-finals. Messi launched himself at the ball and connected with his hand to guide the ball past the goalkeeper Carlos Kameni. Despite protests by Espanyol players the goal was allowed and despite replays showing it was clear handball, Messi has never admitted the foul.
Messi takes Barça to 2:0 against Sevilla FC at Camp Nou on 22 September 2007.
Messi scored five goals in a week leading Barcelona to the top four in La Liga. He dedicated the two goals he scored against FC Sevilla on 22 September to Ronaldinho, who was injured and under fire from media outlets at the time. A few days earlier he had scored as Barcelona defeated Lyon -0 at home in a Champions League match and then on 26 September, Messi scored another goal in a 4-1 victory over Real Zaragoza.
He has been nominated for a FIFPro World XI Player Award under the category of Forward. A recent poll conducted in the online edition of the Spanish newspaper Marca has him as the current best player of the world with 77 percent of the votes. Also, other columnists from Barcelona-based newspapers El Mundo Deportivo and Sport began asking for the Ballon d'Or to be given to Leo Messi this year. This observation was also made by world football legends Franz Beckenbauer and Johan Cruyff. Various football personalities such as Ronaldinho, Samuel Eto'o, Frank Rijkaard, Víctor Fernández, Bernd Schuster, Guti, Raul, Gianluca Zambrotta, Francesco Totti, Antonio Cassano, Alfredo Di Stefano, Diego Maradona and Pelé have all, at one time or another, declared that they consider Messi to be one of the current best footballers in the world.
On 27 February Messi played in his 100th official match for FC Barcelona.
Messi was sidelined for six weeks following an injury on 4 March when he suffered a muscle tear in his left thigh during a Champions League match against Celtic. It was the fourth time in three seasons that the player suffered this type of injury.
With Ronaldinho's departure from the club, Messi inherited his number 10 jersey. On 1 October 2008 during a Champions League match against Shakhtar Donetsk, Messi scored two goals during the last seven minutes after coming on as a substitute for Thierry Henry, to turn the score from 0-1 to a victory for FC Barcelona 2-1. The next league game was versus Atletico Madrid, a match billed as a friendly battle between Lionel and good friend Sergio Agüero. Messi scored a goal from a free kick and assisted another as FC Barcelona went on to win the match 6-1. Messi netted another impressive brace against Sevilla scoring a spectacular dipping volley after being played through by Xavi and then rounding the keeper and slotting home from a tight angle to double his tally. On 1 December 2008, during the first Clásico of the season, Messi scored the second goal in Barcelona's 2-0 win over Real Madrid.
In June 2004, he got his first chance in Argentina colours, playing in an under-20 friendly match against Paraguay. In 2005 he was part of the team that won the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship in the Netherlands. Here, he won the prize for best player of the tournament and became top-scorer.
On 4 August 2005, José Pekerman called Messi up to the senior Argentine national team. He made his debut on 17 August against Hungary, but it was a forgettable occasion. He was substituted on during the 6rd minute, but was sent off after just 40 seconds because the referee, Markus Merk, found he had elbowed defender Vilmos Vanczák, who was tugging Messi's shirt. The decision was contentious. Maradona even claimed the decision was pre-meditated. Messi then had his first international start on September in Argentina's 0-1 World Cup qualifier away loss against Paraguay. Ahead of the match he had said "This is a re-début. The first one was a bit short."
FIFA World Cup 2006
The injury that kept him from playing for two months at the end of the 2005–06 season jeopardised his presence in the World Cup. Nevertheless, Messi was selected in the Argentina squad for the tournament on 15 May 2006. He also played in the farewell match against the Argentinian U-20 team for fifteen minutes and a friendly against Angola from the 64th minute. He witnessed Argentina's opening match victory against Ivory Coast from the bench. In the next match against Serbia, Messi became the youngest player to represent Argentina at a World Cup when he came on as a substitute for Maxi Rodríguez in the 74th minute. He assisted Hernán Crespo's goal within minutes of entering the game and also scored the final goal in the 6-0 victory, that made him the youngest scorer in the tournament and the fifth youngest goalscorer in the whole World Cup. Messi started in Argentina's following 0-0 tie against the Netherlands. In the following game against Mexico, Messi came on as a substitute in the 84th minute, with the score tied 1-1. He appeared to score a goal, but was ruled offside in a dubious decision, Argentina needing an extra time winner to proceed. Coach José Pekerman controversially left Messi on the bench during the quarter-finals match against Germany. Argentina lost 4-2 on penalties and Messi, who was visibly upset during the game, declined to speak to reporters afterwards.
Copa America 2007
When Copa started Leo was the youngest player in the tournament. Messi played his first game in Copa America on 29 June 2007, when Argentina defeated United States 4-1 in the first game. In this game, Messi showed his capabilities as a playmaker. He set up a goal for fellow striker Hernán Crespo and had numerous shots on target. Tevez came on as a substitute for Messi in the 79th minute and scored minutes later.
His second game was against Colombia, in which he caused a penalty that Crespo converted to tie the game at 1-1. He also played part in Argentina's second goal as he was fouled outside the box, which allowed Juan Roman Riquelme to score from a freekick, and increase Argentina's lead to -1. The final score of the game was 4-2 in Argentina's favor and guaranteed them a spot in the tournament's quarterfinals.
In the third game, against Paraguay the coach rested Messi having already qualified for the quarter-finals. He came off the bench in place of Esteban Cambiasso in the 64th minute, with 0-0. In the 79th minute he created a goal for Javier Mascherano.
In the quarterfinals, as Argentina faced Peru, Riquelme made a pass to Messi and the latter scored the second goal for Argentina, which advanced to the semifinals after a 4-0 win.
During the semi-final match against Mexico, Messi scored a fine lob over Oswaldo Sanchez to see Argentina through to the Final. Argentina went on to lose to Brazil in the Final, and Messi won the Young Player of the Tournament award.
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