He is often considered to be the best player in the world and rated by many in the sport as the greatest of all time. The prolific goal scorer is the only football player in history to win five FIFA Ballons d'Or and that too consecutively, and the first player to win three European Golden Shoes. As Lionel Messi turns 29 today we bring you some interesting facts about this great Barca Player!
1. Tissue issues
Carles Rexach, Barcelona’s technical secretary, held a meeting with 13 year old Messi on Dec 14, 2000, at the Pompeia Tennis Club to determine the contract of this Argentinean. Carles was so impressed by young Messi, who came to the meeting with his father that he wanted to sign him right at that time. The entire technical team rushed to manage a contract paper, but the nearest available piece of paper was a napkin. Messi signed his first contract with Barca on that napkin.
2. Miniscule debut
This is a moment of great pride for any footballer, pulling on your country’s shirt and representing the entire nation. However, Lionel Messi’s international debut turned out to be one of the worst of all times. In 2005, a teenage Messi came on as a substitute against Hungary, but just 47 seconds later he would be walking off the field after being sent off. Messi saw a straight red after he seemed to elbow Vilmos Vanczak, and Messi was reportedly later found crying in the changing room.
3. The fault in his stars
Messi was not very healthy and nutritious in his childhood days like the other boys around. He was diagnosed with a growth hormone deficiency which was stopping his normal growth rate at a tender age of 11. His parents struggled to afford the payments for treatment, but after impressing in a trial for Barcelona, the team offered to pay for his treatment in Spain. Messi moved from Argentina to Spain with his father to join the youth academy. The treatment took three years, and although it did work, Messi remains one of the smaller players around the world at 5’6″.
4. Jersey No 10
Messi inherited the No 10 Barca jersey from another great footballer Ronaldinho in the summer of 2008. When Messi's son Thiago was just 72 hours old, Newell's Old Boys, which was Messi's original club, was first in line and managed to sign the infant to a supporters club contract. A replica kit of Thiago’s size was also given to the new-born, along with a small version of No 10 “Thiago” Jersey of the club.
5. Cross culture origins
His major heritage is Italian; his mother was Lebanese. But they later settled the entire family in Argentina and now Messi holds two passports - Argentina's and Spain's. He became a Spanish citizen in September 2005.
6. The family man
After scoring a goal, Messi typically celebrates in a calm and composed manner by simply raising both hands in the air. This gesture is to thank and pay tribute to his grandmother who was very close to him and passed away when he was 10.
Messi may not strike you as the type of person to be tattooed, but he decided that he wanted to celebrate the birth of his son, Thiago, by getting his name and hand prints tattooed on his left calf.
7. Jealous much?
Among his contemporary peers, Messi is most often compared with Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo, as part of an ongoing rivalry that has been compared to past sports rivalries like the Muhammad Ali–Joe Frazier rivalry. Although Messi has at times denied any rivalry they are widely believed to push one another in their aim to be the best player in the world
8. Love for food
He is a big time food lover from his childhood. His favorite dish was Milanesa Napolitana, an Argentinian delicacy made with fried beef. He continued his unbalanced diet even in his initial days at Barcelona. After Guardiola became Barcelona’s manager, he noticed Messi’s food habit and recruited a physiotherapy staff to take care of it. Guardiola also removed the coke vending machine from the center which was mostly occupied by Messi.
9. Impossible is nothing
Leo Messi is the leading brand ambassador of the brand Adidas and is constantly called up for making advertisement videos.
10. Philanthropic football
In March 2010, Messi was appointed as UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. After being the ambassador, Messi visited Argentina, Haiti and Costa Rica to raise awareness and support for UNICEF’s work. To save the lives of thousands of dying children every year due to nutrition malfunction, he made an urgent plea in December 2012. Also, in the year 2007, Messi established the Leo Messi Foundation which works for unhealthy children and funds them for their treatment and food expenses. Lionel Messi donated money for a child hospital re-establishment in his hometown of Rosario, Argentina for the modification of the Victor J Vilela Children’s Hospital’s child oncology unit. He also donated to the children of Syria on August 2013. He decided to donate one-third of his American tour Barca earnings to the innocent child victims of the ongoing civil war in Syria.
All Hail Messi!
Title image: Thesun