While debates rage over who should be considered the greatest Argentine footballer to wear the number 10 (as oppose to Diego Maradona), there is little doubt in anyone’s mind that Lionel Messi is one of the best active players of this generation.
Representing Spanish club FC Barcelona, Messi and the Argentina national team, Messi has won eight La Liga titles and four UEFA Champions League titles, as well as four Copas del Rey. Known for his brilliant offensive, Messi has also made his mark as a real team player and playmaker, holding the records for most goals scored in La Liga, most in a single La Liga season (50), most in a single football season (82), and most in a calendar year (91). He also hold records for most assists made in La Liga and the Copa América tournaments.
In recognition of these accomplishments, Messi is, fittingly, the first and only player ever to have received five FIFA Ballons d’Or (four of which were won consecutively), as well as the first player to win three European Golden Shoes. But being the greatest of his generation wasn’t always in the cards – if not for a twist of fate, Lionel Messi’s contributions to football history may have turned out very differently.
Born in Rosario, Argentina, Messi was already known as a gifted pre-teen footballer with Newell’s Old Boys when he was diagnosed with a rare growth hormone problem. Unfortunately, none of the teams in Argentina were interested in paying for the massively expensive treatments Messi needed to correct the condition, leading him and his family to relocate to Spain, where FC Barcelona agreed to foot the bills after seeing him perform in a trial.
Messi would make his professional debut in 2004 and, in the span of three short years, would validate FC Barcelona’s investment by qualifying as a finalist for the Ballon d’Or and FIFA World Player of the Year award. At the age of 22, his third year of being nominated, Messi would be awarded the Ballon d’Or and FIFA World Player of the Year trophies for the 2008-2009 season.
By 2012, at the age of 24, he was already FC Barcelona’s highest scoring player in history. For 2014-2015, Messi solidified his right to G.O.A.T. status when he powered his team to claim the La Liga, Champions League and Copa del Rey titles in the same season.
And the man isn’t even 30 yet!
As far as the issue of Messi and Maradona’s respective claims to G.O.A.T go, that debate has actually been all but settled, at least as far as one veteran footballer is concerned. The source: None other than Maradona himself: “Messi is my Maradona.”
Straight from the man himself, who are we to argue with The Golden Boy?