Lionel Andrés Messi (born 24 June 1987 in Rosario) is an Argentine professional footballer who currently plays for FC Barcelona in the Spanish Primera División. He is also a member of the Argentine national team.
Lionel Messi was born in Rosario city on 24 June 1987. At the age of five, he started playing football for Grandoli, a club coached by his father. 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 over £500 a month, as Argentina’s economy was collapsing. 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 with the young player to Europe and he starred in the club’s youth teams.
Messi made his unofficial debut for the first team against FC Porto on 16 November 2003. Less than a year later he made his official debut against Espanyol on 16 October 2004, 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 Krkić 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 Krkić broke this record, a goal assisted by Messi.
In June 2004, he got his chance, playing in an under-20 friendly match against Paraguay. In 2005 he was part of the team that won the Under-20 World Cup in Holland. He also won the prize for best player of the tournament.
On 4 August 2005, José Pekerman called Messi up to the senior Argentine national team. He made his debut on 17 August 2005 against Hungary, but it was a forgettable occasion. He was substituted on during the 63rd 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, and left the pitch in tears. The decision was contentious. Maradona even claimed the decision was pre-meditated. Messi then had his first international start on 3 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”
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