Lionel Messi was born on June 24, 1987. At an early age, he was clearly a talented young player. However, his lack of height was a concern. In 2000, he was diagnosed with Growth Hormone Deficiency (GHD). The treatment was very expensive and his youth team, Newell’s Old Boys, could not pay for it. Finally, Barcelona, of La Liga, recognized his potential and paid for his treatment in Spain. Fortunately, the treatment seemed to work and Barcelona signed him to their squad. From the beginning, Messi made a serious impact. At only 17 years of age, Messi became the youngest player to score a goal in La Liga, helping Barcelona to the La Liga championship in 2004. Since then, Messi’s team won the 2005 World Youth championship, Barcelona won the UEFA championship in 2006 and he helped Argentina win the Gold Medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics. Although he played in the 2006 World Cup, he did not make a serious impact.
Honors and Awards
Lionel Messi’s complete list of team and individual awards is far too numerous to be listed here. At the 2005 World Youth tournament, he was the leading scorer and MVP. For three seasons in a row, he was named World Young Player of the Year. In 2008-2009, he was the top scorer and player of the year in UEFA. By 2009, he won so many global individual awards, that he is now generally considered the greatest player on the planet.
Playing in the Shadow of Maradona
Despite all of his recognition, Lionel Messi must have a breakout performance at the 2010 World Cup to validate his status as the greatest player in the world. But the vast majority of this pressure comes from his own home country of Argentina. Every talented player who has come up through the ranks in Argentina has been compared to the immortal hero Diego Maradona, who led his country to the 1986 World Cup title. If that pressure is not enough, Messi must contend with Maradona on a daily basis as he is the manager of Argentina’s national team. But if Messi truly is the greatest player alive, then he should be able to contend with these challenges and those that are more tangible.
Look for Lionel Messi to have an incredible performance at the 2010 World Cup. His talent lies not only in being a terrific striker, but he also has beautiful footwork. Hence, Messi has the ability to not only finish plays with goals, but his ball skills allow him to advance the ball from midfield at high speeds and create his own shot. Messi must resist the urge to do everything himself, as the most talented defenders in the world are sure to double team him. When this happens, he must have faith in his teammates and play within Maradona’s system. Playing in Group B with Greece, Nigeria and South Korea, Argentina will have no trouble advancing to the next round. However, it is inevitable that Maradona’s lack of experience as manager will impair Argentina’s performance against more talented and experienced squads. Do not look for Argentina to contend for the World Cup.
Statistical references and other biographical data can be found at these web sites.
ESPN’s soccer web site
Lionel Messi’s web site