Barcelona’s potent striker Lionel Messi lit up La Liga for 34 goals in just 30 games, tying Ronaldo’s record for most goals in a league season. He also blistered the UEFA Champions League for eight goals. And he’s only 22 years old, at the top of his game, and cannot be stopped. Messi will certainly be one of the players to watch in the 2010 World Cup when he suits up for his native Argentina, one of the top teams in the world.
Messi has been playing his entire career at Barcelona starting in the 2004-2005 season as a teenager according to ESPN. Since then he has only gotten better and better. He scored 23 goals last season and led La Liga’s champions this year with 34 goals and 10 assists. In qualifying for the 2010 World Cup, Messi has only scored six goals in 22 matches for the South American runners up.
The Washington Post reports that in order for Messi to thrive in Argentina he has to simultaneously be allowed to play as he is capable of and be a team player when his team plays with some of the best football teams in the world. If Messi can dish out goals and assists like he did in Barcelona then he should have no problem. Having legendary player Diego Maradona as a head coach surely helps. “Thank God he’s Argentine, ” Maradona said. And like Maradona, Messi is flashy, quick, and small in stature. Yet he hasn’t been able to show the brilliance for Argentina as he has for Barcelona, and hopefully Messi can change that for his team in South Africa.
Nicknamed La Pulga Atomica (The Atomic Flea) in Argentina for his small stature, the Spanish press has called him Messidona, and yet others prefer to think of him as The Messiah to resurrect Argentine soccer for the next three or four World Cups. Not since 1986 in Mexico City have the Argentines won the World Cup, where they have hoisted the trophy twice total in addition to 1978.
Messi is one of the best players in the world. When his Barca team defeated English Premier League entrant Arsenal 4-1 in the UEFA Champions League, it was Messi who had scored all of the goals. And this was after Arsenal had taken a 1-0 lead. He was also named 2009 FIFA World Player of the Year for his skills and almost single handedly taking Barcelona to the top of La Liga for the second straight year.
Whether his success translates into a World Cup title is something Head Coach Diego Maradona and millions of Argentine fans will be hoping for starting on June 11, 2010. ESPN, the Washington Post, and CBS Sports all contributed information for this article.