Happy birthday to football magician Messi
Published: 01:40 PM, 24 June 2019
It only seems like yesterday he came bursting onto the scene as a floppy-haired young player, but Lionel Andrés Messi turned 32 on Monday.
As much as his millions of fans wish the Barcelona and Argentina legend a happy birthday, a big part of them are also feel quite sad.
And because Messi is fast approaching the final years of his remarkable career. Most footballers retire somewhere around their mid-30s and the five-time Ballon d’Or winner isn’t far off that now.
It’ll be down to Messi when he hangs up his boots. He said earlier this year that he’ll stretch out his retirement for as long as he can, but even if he plays until he’s 38 that’s only six years away now.
Today is a reminder that we should all appreciate the footballer regarded by many fans as the greatest of all time. As much as we’d like him to be, he won’t be around forever.
Messi has achieved everything in football, aside from winning a major tournament at international level.
This is now the Argentine’s burning ambition, above everything else.
He’s come agonizingly close on several occasions — including finishing as a World Cup finalist in 2014 — but has an opportunity to land his hands on the Copa America after Argentina progressed to the quarter-finals on Sunday night.
If he does win the Copa America next month then even more people will agree that Messi has done enough over the course of his career to be labeled the best player ever.
There are several other candidates for this honor — namely Pele, Diego Maradona, Alfredo Di Stefano, Johan Cruyff and, of course, Cristiano Ronaldo — but Messi, for many trumps the lot.
With 603 goals in 687 games, Messi is Barcelona’s all-time leading goalscorer. César Rodríguez Álvarez is the club’s second highest goalscorer with 232 goals.
The little magician was born on June 24, 1987, in Rosario, the third of four children of Jorge Messi, a steel factory manager, and his wife Celia Cuccittini, who worked in a magnet manufacturing workshop.
Growing up in a tight-knit, football-loving family, “Leo” developed a passion for the sport from an early age, playing constantly with his older brothers, Rodrigo, and Matías, and his cousins, Maximiliano, and Emanuel Biancucchi, both of whom became professional footballers.
Messi’s football career started in 1995 at Newell’s Old Boys, where he played until the year 2000.
However, his future as a professional player was threatened when, at age 11, he was diagnosed with a growth hormone deficiency. As his father`s health insurance covered only two years of growth hormone treatment, which cost at least $1,000 per month, Newell’s agreed to contribute, but later reneged on their promise.
At the age of 13, Messi moved from Argentina to Spain after FC Barcelona agreed to pay for his medical treatments.
There he earned renown as one of the greatest players in history, helping his club win more than two dozen league titles and tournaments. In 2012, he set a record for most goals in a calendar year, and in 2016, he was named Europe`s Ballon d’Or winner for the fifth time.
The Barcelona and Argentina superstar is widely revered as the greatest player of all time in many quarters, while others will debate that profusely.
But few stars have enjoyed such a decorated trophy haul as his, with his mantelpiece carrying nine La Liga titles, four Champions Leagues, six Copa Del Reys, three Club World Cups, seven Spanish Super Cups and of course five FIFA Ballon D’Ors and five golden boot.
Although he is famously quiet and private off the field, Messi has found ways to help others in need. In 2007, he formed the Leo Messi Foundation to provide opportunities for disadvantaged youths. In early 2010, UNICEF named him a goodwill ambassador, with a focus on fighting for children`s rights across the globe.
Aside from his unbelievable stats and records — and perhaps even more importantly - there have been few players, if any, who have brought as much joy to so many as Messi.
There have been countless games down the years where you’re left wondering whether Messi really is human. There’s something otherworldly about him when he’s on the pitch.
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