Lionel Messi Barcelona, Leo Messi, or Lionel Andrés Messi (born June 24, 1987), is an Argentine professional footballer who plays as a striker for Paris Saint-Germain in Ligue 1 and captains the national team of his country. Messi has won a record seven Ballon d’Or awards[note 2] and a record six European Golden Shoes, and he will be included in the Ballon d’Or Dream Team for 2020. His whole professional career up to 2021 was spent at Barcelona, where he won a record-breaking 34 trophies (10 La Liga championships, 7 Copa del Rey titles, and 4 UEFA Champions League titles). He was a part of the 2021 and 2022 World Cup-winning teams for his country. Messi, a prolific scorer, and inventive playmaker, now holds the records for most goals scored in La Liga (474), most hat-tricks scored in La Liga (36) and the UEFA Champions League (eight), and most assists scored in La Liga (192) and the Copa América (17). He also leads all South American males in goals scored on the international stage (102). Messi is the all-time leader in goals scored for a single club with 552 and overall career goals scored with over 800 at the senior level for both club and nation (672).
At the age of 13, Messi moved from Argentina to Spain to join Barcelona. He made his professional debut with the club in October 2004, when he was just 17 years old. After three years, he became an indispensable member of the team, and in his first full season with Barcelona in 2008–09, he led the club to its first Spanish football triple and his first Ballon d’Or award at age 22. After three more productive years, Messi became the only player in history to win four Ballons d’Or. During the 2011–12 season, he became Barcelona’s all-time leading scorer while also breaking the La Liga and European single-season scoring records. Before recovering his finest form in 2014-15 and becoming the all-time top scorer in La Liga while leading Barcelona to an unprecedented second triple, Messi finished second for the Ballon d’Or in both of the previous two seasons, behind his supposed career rival Cristiano Ronaldo. Messi became Barcelona’s captain in 2018, and he set a new record by winning his sixth Ballon d’Or this year. As his contract expired in August of 2021, he joined for Paris Saint-Germain.
Messi, who represents Argentina on the international stage, owns the record for most caps and goals scored in the country’s history. He earned the Golden Ball and Golden Shoe in the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship, and an Olympic gold medal at the 2008 Summer Games. Argentine legend Diego Maradona called Messi “his successor” because of the similarities between their playing styles, since both are little, left-footed dribblers. After making his senior team debut in August 2005, Messi made history by being the youngest player and youngest goal scorer for Argentina at the 2006 FIFA World Cup. He also advanced to the final of the 2007 Copa América, where he was voted the tournament’s youngest player of the year. After taking over as captain in August 2011, he has led Argentina to three consecutive finals, earning the Golden Ball in each of them. These finals occurred at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the 2015 Copa América, and the 2016 Copa América. He had previously announced his retirement from international play in 2016, but came out of retirement to help his country qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, finish third at the 2019 Copa América, and ultimately win the 2021 tournament while taking home the tournament’s Golden Ball and Golden Boot. Messi won a record-breaking seventh Ballon d’Or in 2021 with this performance. He led Argentina to victory in the 2022 FIFA World Cup, when he set new records for most appearances (26), goals (11), and Golden Balls (2). He also became the first player to score in every round of a World Cup.
Since 2006, Messi has been an Adidas brand ambassador. France Football claims he was the highest-paid footballer on the planet for five consecutive years (2009–2014), while Forbes lists him as the highest-paid athlete in the world for both 2019 and 2022. Messi has been three times in Time magazine’s list of the 100 most important people in the world. In February of 2020, he became the first footballer and first team-sport athlete to receive the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year award. Messi surpassed $1 billion in lifetime earnings later that year, becoming only the second player in the history of any team sport.
2003–2005: Rise to the first team
During the 2003-04 season, Messi’s fourth at Barcelona, he made his debut for a club record five different youth teams. After leading the Juveniles B to tournament titles in four international preseason events, he was promoted to the Juveniles A and promptly scored 18 goals in 11 league games. During the international break, the first team was so thin that numerous young players, including Messi, were called up to fill in. During a training session with Frank Rijkaard’s first squad, French winger Ludovic Giuly recalled how Messi drew his eye: “He wiped out the whole group. They were trying to keep this youngster from being a laughingstock, so they started kicking him around, but he simply got up and resumed playing. He could dribble through four defenders and put the ball in the net. The starting central defenders were as anxious as the rest of the team. He came from another planet.”
Messi made his professional debut on 16 November 2003, at the ripe old age of 16 years, 4 months, and 23 days, when he entered as a substitute in the 75th minute of a friendly match against Porto, managed by José Mourinho.
His two opportunities created and one attempt on goal thrilled the coaching staff, and he was soon working with Barcelona B on a daily basis and the first squad once a week.  Ronaldinho, Barça’s new star player, informed his colleagues after the 16-year-first old’s training session with the senior squad that he thought the youngster will become an even greater player than himself.  Having Messi, whom Ronaldinho affectionately referred to as “little brother,” on the team quickly became like family for the Brazilian star.
In 2005, Messi faced up against Málaga.
Messi joined Barcelona C, the club’s third squad, in addition to the Juveniles A, to obtain more game experience. He made his Barcelona C debut on November 29. He scored five goals in 10 games to assist them escape the Tercera División relegation zone, including a hat trick in eight minutes during a Copa del Rey encounter against Sevilla while being man-marked by Sergio Ramos.   His first professional contract, signed on February 4, 2004, ran from 2004 through 2012 and had a €30 million buyout provision to recognize his development. Later that month, on 6 March in the Segunda División B with Barcelona B, he made his professional debut, at which point his buyout clause immediately doubled to €80 million.   Throughout the five games, he did not record a single point for the B team.  Since he was physically inferior to his opponents, who were often much older and taller than him, he trained hard to gain bulk and power. By the end of the season, he rejoined both juvenile squads, ultimately contributing to the league championship victory of the Juveniles B. At the end of the season, he had tallied 36 goals (for five teams) in all competitions.
Messi was a mainstay on the B team during the 2004–05 season, starting every game he played in and contributing six goals and 13 assists.
While he had not played with the first team since making his debut the previous November, in October of 2004, the veterans requested that manager Frank Rijkaard bring him back.
Rijkaard shifted Lionel Messi, despite the player’s original intentions, to the right wing so that Ronaldinho could play on the left and take use of Messi’s ability to cut inside and shoot with his stronger left foot.
In the next game, on October 16 against Espanyol, Messi made his league debut as a substitute in the 82nd minute.
He was the youngest player in Barcelona history to appear in a competitive match, at the age of 17 years, 3 months, and 22 days. He made his first team debut in the UEFA Champions League against Shakhtar Donetsk and played a total of 244 minutes in nine matches as a substitute that season. On May 1, 2005, he became the club’s youngest goal scorer when he assisted Ronaldinho on the game-winning goal in a match against Albacete. Barça finally won the league title after six years in Rijkaard’s second season at the helm.
2005–2008: Becoming a starting eleven player
When Messi turned 18 on June 24, he signed his first professional contract. His time at Barcelona was shortened by two years to 2010, but his buyout was upped to €150 million.  His big break came two months later, on August 24th, in the Joan Gamper Cup, a preseason tournament for Barcelona. His first start earned him a standing ovation from the Camp Nou crowd as he performed admirably against Fabio Capello’s Juventus.  Capello wanted to loan Messi to Juventus, but Inter Milan offered to buy him out for €150 million plus treble his salary.  It was the only time the club was in danger of losing Messi, said former president Joan Laporta, but the player finally opted to stay.  His contract was extended for another year on September 16th, making it the second time in three months that it has been revised.
Messi at a 2006 Barcelona training session
After missing the beginning of La Liga due to legal complications with the Royal Spanish Football Association, Messi was finally able to participate on September 26 after becoming a Spanish citizen.
Over time, he wore jersey number 19 and became the team’s go-to right winger, joining Ronaldinho and striker Samuel Eto’o in a dynamic attacking combination.    He started in big games like his first Clasico against bitter rivals Real Madrid on November 19 and Barcelona’s away win against Chelsea in the Champions League round of 16.  This followed a heated period of competition between the teams, during which Messi resentedfully declared, “We would rather face Arsenal, Manchester United, or anyone else than be on the pitch with Chelsea.”  His season was cut short on 7 March 2006 when, having scored 8 goals in 25 games, including his first in the Champions League, in a 5-0 win over Panathinaikos on 2 November 2005,, he tore his hamstring in the second leg of a match against Chelsea. Messi tried to get back in shape for the Champions League final, but he was declared ineligible on the day of the game (17 May). He was so down that he didn’t even bother to celebrate his team’s win over Arsenal in Paris.  
During the 2006–07 season, Messi, then just 19 years old, established himself as one of the top players in the world as Barcelona began a slow slide.
 He scored 17 goals in 36 appearances across all competitions, making him a hero to the club’s fans (known as culés).  Yet serious problems persisted, and on November 12, 2006, he suffered a metatarsal fracture that sidelined him for three months .   He became well in time for the Champions League round of 16 versus Liverpool, but Barcelona, the defending champions, were already eliminated.  Eleven of his league-high fourteen goals occurred in the final thirteen games of the season.  In a 3-3 tie that was decided in extra time, he became the first player in 12 years to score a hat trick in a Clásico when he did so on March 10, 2007.  A new deal inked that month acknowledged his rising significance to the team by significantly increasing his compensation. 
Messi’s Maradona-like performance against Getafe in 2007
Messi has often been likened to his Argentine teammate Diego Maradona, and he recently validated this comparison by coming within inches of replicating Maradona’s two most famous goals in the span of seven weeks.
 On April 18, in a Copa del Rey semi-final against Getafe, he scored a goal that looked strikingly identical to Maradona’s second goal in the quarter-finals of the 1986 FIFA World Cup, often known as the Goal of the Century. As Maradona before him, Messi picked up the ball on the right side close to midfield, dribbled it for 60 meters (66 yards), and beat five players before scoring with an angled finish.   Similar to Maradona’s Hand of God goal in the same World Cup match, he scored in a league encounter on June 9 against Espanyol by flinging himself at the ball and directing it past the goalie with his hand.  As Messi’s star continued to soar, Barcelona’s fortunes took a turn for the worst when the squad lost the league to Real Madrid on goal differential after Messi was rested in the second leg of their match against Getafe.  
Messi, then just 20 years old, took over as Barça’s main player after Ronaldinho’s decline and was dubbed the “Messiah” by the Spanish media.
 His 2007 efforts were also recognized with awards: he finished third in the voting for the 2007 Ballon d’Or among journalists, behind Kaká and Cristiano Ronaldo, and he finished second in the voting for the 2007 FIFA World Player of the Year award among international managers and national team captains, again behind Kaká.   While he did score 16 goals in 2007–08, his season was derailed by injury once again in the second half after he tore his hamstring on December 15.  In the round of 16, away against Celtic, he scored twice to become the competition’s leading scorer with six goals, but he re-injured himself in the return match on March 4, 2008. Captain Carles Puyol criticized the Spanish media for putting undue pressure on Messi to participate in every game after Rijkaard fielded him despite warnings from the medical staff.  Barcelona did not win any trophies this season, as they were beaten by Manchester United in the Champions League semi-finals and finished in third place in the league.