Lionel Messi is an Argentine footballer who plays for Spanish club Barcelona and is captain of the Argentina national team.
Considered by many as the greatest footballer of all time, Lionel Messi was recognised as the world's best player when he won the FIFA World Player of the Year and Ballon d'Or awards in 2009 at the age of 22. Since the merger of the two individual awards in 2010, Messi won the FIFA Ballon d'Or in successive years in 2010 and 2011.
Initially a winger when he first burst onto the Barcelona scene, Lionel Messi plays more as a roaming forward in recent seasons and has gone on to score a consistently high number of goals. During the 2009-10 season, Messi topped the Primera Division scoring charts with 34 goals, but came second to Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo last season with 31 goals. The two players are level during the current campaign on 41, while Messi has scored a total of 62 goals in all competitions this season.
To date, Lionel Messi has won five La Liga championships, one Copa del Rey trophy, three UEFA Champions League titles, and two FIFA Club World Cups. He also helped Argentina win the Under-20 World Cup in 2005 and collected an Olympic gold medal in Beijing 2008.
Born on 24 June 1987 in Rosario, Argentina, Lionel Messi joined his first club in 1995; Newell's Old Boys, who were based in his home town. At the age of 11, Messi was diagnosed with growth hormone deficiency and while Argentine giants River Plate were unwilling to pay his $900 a month medical bills, Barcelona offered to cover his treatment on the basis he moved to Spain and join their youth academy.
Following a spell in Barcelona's youth academy between 2000 and 2003, Lionel Messi made his league debut against Espanyol on 16 October 2004 aged 17 years and 114 days, becoming the third-youngest ever footballer to play for Barcelona.
Lionel Messi established himself as a first-team regular in the 2006-07 season where he scored 14 goals in 26 matches, including a dramatic hat-trick against Real Madrid which earned 10-man Barcelona a 3-3 draw.
Following the departure of Brazilian forward Ronaldinho prior to the start of the 2008 season, Lionel Messi inherited the famous number 10 shirt and did not disappoint. Messi helped Barcelona to the Copa del Rey, La Liga and UEFA Champions League treble where he became the top scorer in the Champions League with nine goals; the youngest in the tournament's history.
During the 2009-10 season, Lionel Messi collect his first Ballon d'Or and FIFA World Player of the Year awards during a campaign in which he scored four times against Arsenal in the Champions League quarter-final second leg at Camp Nou. He scored his 100th goal for Barcelona during the 4-0 victory over Sevilla and he made his 200th appearance for Barcelona on 24 March 2010 against Osasuna. Messi was named La Liga player of the year for the second year in a row as Barcelona claimed the league title.
The 2010-11 season saw Lionel Messi fire Barcelona to the Primera Division and Champions League double with Messi inspiring his team to a 3-1 win over Manchester United in the final at Wembley.
Lionel Messi has been selected by Argentina to appear in two World Cups (2006, 2010) although he was not a regular starter in the first tournament and was left on the bench during the quarter-final penalty shootout defeat to hosts Germany.
Messi was an integral member of the 2010 World Cup squad in South Africa under Diego Maradona, although he failed to replicate his Barcelona goal-scoring exploits and Argentina were eventually eliminated by Germany 4-0 at the quarter-final stage.
Lionel Messi is currently ranked the third richest footballer on the planet with earnings between May 2010 and May 2011 estimated at $32 million while his net worth is valued at $110 million. His main sponsors include Adidas, Pepsi, Konami, Audemars Piguet, Chery and AirEuropa.