Lionel Andrés Messi (Spanish pronunciation: [ljoˈnel anˈdɾes ˈmesi] (born 24 June 1987) is an Argentine footballer who plays in La Liga for FC Barcelona and captains the Argentina national team, mainly as a forward.
Messi received Ballon d'Or and FIFA World Player of the Year nominations by the age of 21, and won in 2009 (2009 Ballon d'Or and 2009 FIFA World Player of the Year), 2010 (2010 FIFA Ballon d'Or) and 2011 (2011 FIFA Ballon d'Or). He also won the 2010–11 UEFA Best Player in Europe Award. His playing style and small stature has drawn comparisons to Diego Maradona, who himself declared Messi as his "successor."
Messi began playing football at a young age and his skill and potential was soon realized by Barcelona. He left Rosario-based Newell's Old Boys's youth team in 2000 and moved with his family to Europe, as Barcelona offered treatment for his growth hormone deficiency. Making his debut in the 2004–05 season, he broke his team record for the youngest footballer to score a league goal. Major honours soon followed as Barcelona won La Liga in Messi's debut season, and won a double of the league and Champions League in 2006. His breakthrough season was in the 2006–07 season; he became a first team regular, scoring a hat-trick in El Clásico and finishing with 14 goals in 26 league games. Messi then had the most successful season of his playing career, the 2008–09 season, in which he scored 38 goals to play an integral part in a treble-winning campaign. This record-breaking season was then eclipsed in the following 2009–10 campaign, where Messi scored 47 goals in all competitions, equalling Ronaldo's record total for Barcelona. He surpassed this record again in the 2010–11 season with 53 goals in all competitions.
Messi has won five La Liga titles, three Champions League titles, scoring in two of those finals, against Manchester United in both 2009 and 2011. He was not on the pitch as Barcelona defeated Arsenal in 2006, but received a winners' medal from the tournament. After scoring 12 goals in the 2010–11 Champions League, Messi became only the third player (after Gerd Müller and Jean-Pierre Papin) to top-score in three successive European Champion Clubs' Cup campaigns. However, Messi is the first one to win the Champions League top scorer titles for three consecutive years after Champions League changed its format in 1992. Messi is the fourth football player to win three Ballon d'Ors, after Johan Cruyff, Michel Platini and Marco Van Basten and the second player to win three consecutive Ballon d'Ors, after Michel Platini (however, two of his Ballon d'Ors are FIFA Ballon d'Ors, which he won consecutively).
Messi was the top scorer of the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship with six goals, including two in the final game. Shortly thereafter, he became an established member of Argentina's senior international team. In 2006, he became the youngest Argentine to play in the FIFA World Cup and he won a runners-up medal at the Copa América tournament the following year. In 2008, in Beijing, he won his first international honour, an Olympic gold medal, with the Argentina Olympic football team. At international level Messi scored 19 goals in 66 games.