© Pranav Desai (Sportz Interactive), Jun 24, 2010

Happy Birthday MESSI!

© AP Images
Jorge Horacio Messi and Celia Maria welcomed little Lionel Andres Messi into the world on 24th June, 1987. Born in Rosario, the Argentine forward celebrates his 24th birthday today and we take a look at his journey in football so far.

Messi started playing football at a very young age for a club managed by his father Jorge Messi. In 1995 he moved to Newell’s Old Boys club in his home city. River Plate showed some interest in this ‘little genius’, but Messi was diagnosed with growth hormone deficiency at the age of 11 and the Primera Division club could not afford his treatment that amounted to nearly $900 a month and was forced to back down.

Barcelona’s sporting director, Carles Rexach was impressed with the young boy and offered him a chance to move to Spain and play for the Catalan giant’s youth team and assured his parents that the club would take care of his medical expenses.

At just 16 years and 145 days old, Messi made his debut for Barcelona when he started the game against Porto in a friendly match in November 2003. The following year he made his league debut for the first team in the match against Espanyol on 16th October, 2004 and became the third youngest player to play for Barcelona and also the youngest club player to play in the La Liga at the time. This record was broken by his current club teammate Bojan Krkic in September 2007.

In all Messi has played around 269 games for the Catalan club in all competitions and has scored 180 goals with 73 assists to his name.

© AP Images
At the International stage Messi won the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship for Argentina and made his senior team debut for his country at the age of 18 against Hungary. Messi has represented his country on 56 occasions and scored 17 goals so far.

Due to his playing style and ability with the ball ‘Lio’ has often been compared to the Argentine legend – Diego Armando Maradona. The 1986 World Cup winner has tremendous faith in Messi and believes that he is his successor.

On a personal level Messi was nominated as the European and World Player of the Year in 2009. He has also won the Spanish Primera Liga (2004-2005, 2005-2006, 2008-2009, 2009-2010, 2010-2011), Copa del Rey (2008-2009), UEFA Champions League (2005-2006, 2008-2009, 2010-2011) and the FIFA Club World Cup (2009) all with FC Barcelona.

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