Lionel Messi, probably the greatest footballer of all time; of this generation most definitely, turns 29 today, on June 24. The Argentine who plays for FC Barcelona is a prolific goalscorer and has scored some incredible goals, making him truly mesmerizing. There is almost nothing the little magician cannot do. He is also nicknamed ‘The Flea’ due to his speed and agility. Born in Rosario, Argentina, he shares his birthplace with famous revolutionary leader Che Guevara. He happens to hold two passports – Argentina and Spain. He was declared a Spanish citizen in 2005.
He is the only football player in history to win five FIFA Ballon d’Or, four of which he won consecutively; and the first player to win three European Golden Shoes. Here are just a few of his records:
Most goals in La Liga history (283 goals).
Top goal scorer in FC Barcelona’s history (425 goals)
Guinness World Record holder for Most Goals Scored In a Year (86 goals in 2012)
Those were listed just to offer you a glimpse. With so many records, let’s have a look at some interesting facts about the man:
Messi was diagnosed with a growth hormone deficiency when he was only 11. His parents could not afford his treatment. But that did not stop him from making it to the top. He used it to his advantage, (since shorter players have better balance) and you can clearly see that when he dribbles.
Messi’s first football contract was actually penned down on paper napkins. FC Barcelona’s sports chief Carles Rexach was so impressed with the young footballer’s talent, that he prepared a contract on the spot with no official paper being available.
He is often to compared to another great – Diego Maradona. The two compatriots have a very similar style of play – so much so that a few years ago, Messi scored a brilliant solo goal (for Barcelona) that was identical to Maradona’s in the 1986 World Cup against England. Messi also had a similar ‘Hand of God’ situation (at Barcelona) like the legendary Argentine.
Lionel Messi is the second richest soccer player in the world with a net worth of $180 million. With his contract and endorsements, he makes about $128,000 per day. Among the many brands he endorses, he is also the global brand ambassador of India’s Tata Motors.
Messi is UNICEF’s Ambassador of Goodwill. He also has a foundation named ‘Leo Messi Foundation’ that supports various charities. With the help of Herbalife, it helps to pay for medical treatment, transportation and recuperation for children diagnosed with major medical problems. A few years ago, Messi also donated €600,000 ($812,000) towards the refurbishment of a children`s hospital in his hometown Rosario, Argentina.
He met his Argentine-born girlfriend Antonella Roccuzzo when he was 5 years old. She is now the mother of his child – Thiago, whose name and handprints are tattooed on Messi’s left calf.
Messi has always been very down-to earth as a person. With all his success, he remains the man he has always been – calm and composed. After scoring a goal, he typically celebrates simply by raising both hands in the air. This is a gesture to thank and pay tribute to his grandmother who was very close to him and passed away when he was a child. He believes she is up there and watching him from above.
His left foot is so magical, that a solid gold cast was modeled on his own foot. Weighing 25 kg, it shows every feature of his treasured left foot. It was made to celebrate the Argentinian’s fourth Ballon d’Or, and also to raise funds for the victims of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in 2011.