A Boy Who Became A Legend: The Inspiring Story of Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi was born in Rosario, Argentina, on June 24, 1987. He was the son of Jorge Horacio Messi, who worked in construction, and Celia María Cuccittini, who cleaned homes and offices. Despite his upbringing in Argentina’s poorest neighborhoods, it didn’t take long for Lionel to shine as a young soccer player. At only 11 years old, he joined the club Grandoli, where he played until joining Newell’s Old Boys when he was 13 years old.
There’s no doubt that young Messi was born with a special gift. He first caught professional eyes at age 14, when he appeared in a Barcelona youth tournament. Barca signed him to their youth team shortly after that, but they promoted him to their top squad after just one season on the B squad. His play with his new team led then-manager Frank Rijkaard to call Messi the most outstanding talent he’d ever seen. Not bad for a 15-year-old! In just two years as an official member of FC Barcelona’s leading team, Lionel helped lead them to two La Liga titles and another UEFA Champions League title. By age 20, he had already won every significant honor in club soccer.
Pride of Argentina
It wasn’t always easy for young Lionel. Like many Argentinian boys, he dreamed of playing for his national team and hometown club. But unlike most young Argentinians, he got to live that dream. He was born in Rosario, Argentina, on June 24, 1987. This was just two years after Maradona led Argentina to a World Cup championship – a title they were hoping to repeat in 1990 with a squad that included some of their greatest players ever: El Diego Maradona, Osvaldo Ardiles, and Ricardo Villa. While it would be another decade before Lionel would make his mark on world football, there is no doubt that he was already destined for greatness from an early age. His father Jorge recalls that as soon as he could walk, Leo had a ball at his feet. I would give him a ball when I came home from work, and by 10 pm, we’d play until midnight, Jorge said. He didn’t want to go to bed because there was no ball at home.
At first, both parents resisted letting their son play organized football so young but eventually relented when it became clear how much it meant to him.
Not many players in football history have had as big an impact on the game as has Messi. It is hard to find a modern player who did not grow up idolizing either Diego Maradona or Pelé, but it was Zidane who inspired young Leo. To describe his playing style, we’d say that he’s somewhere between a classic number 10 and a false 9. He’s developed from being a left-footed attacking midfielder into one of today’s greatest ever attacking players; if there were any doubts about that before, they were settled when he scored five goals in one game against Bayer Leverkusen in April 2012. What makes him such a special player? His dribbling skills are unparalleled, even by other great dribblers like Ronaldinho or Neymar Jr., and he can keep defenders at bay with his close control. He doesn’t just beat them—he embarrasses them. While other world-class players focus on speed and power, Messi focuses on feints, fakes, stepovers, and tricks. The man himself says that he tries to get past defenders without even looking at them—he sees where they’re going to be before they do! If you want to see some examples of what we mean by embarrassing, check out these videos.
You may be surprised to learn that, until age 13, Messi’s future in soccer was looking grim. His growth had been delayed, and his skills and coordination were average at best. Many would-be coaches had already given up on him when Barcelona’s youth academy took a chance. By 15, he was earning first-team minutes; by 17, he made his World Cup debut, and before long, he was named FIFA Player of the Year in 2009 and 2010—an unprecedented feat for a 20-year-old athlete. Looking back, it seems inevitable that such a prodigy would become one of the greatest players ever to kick a ball, but few realized what an international celebrity he’d become today.
In 1997, at age 8, Messi moved with his family to Barcelona, Spain. The following year he joined FC Barcelona’s academy. In 2005 he began playing for FC Barcelona’s B team. In 2006 he was promoted to its C team and then in 2007 to its reserve team, FC Barcelona B. Later that year, he signed a contract extension which saw him go on loan with fellow Spanish side RCD Espanyol in 2008, where he played until 2009, though during that time, he also played on loan with fellow Spanish side RCD Mallorca where he made 11 appearances and scored once before returning to Espanyol in June 2009 after making 41 appearances and scoring 15 goals for them.