So previously, I wrote an entire set piece about world-famous Portuguese peacock Cristiano Ronaldo.
It proved to be a phenomenal hit with CR7 fans knocking on the door with rotten eggs in tow.
How dare you include bad stuff about our god, say the fans. He didn’t misbehave. It’s the other party who misbehaved!
And after that particular rotten experience, I found myself tasked with another set piece, and this time it’s about the Argentinian Lionel Messi.
A figure many consider to be one of (if not the) the greatest footballers to have walked on Earth.
Oh, wait, wrong one.
That’s slightly better.
If you’re watching World Cup, don’t be like this guy – he might like Messi but due to his messiness, he nearly missed a goal. Here’s what I meant:
Here goes nothing. *braces myself for crazed Messiah fans*
1. He’s 31 years old
That’s right; like Ronaldo, Messi has entered his 30s, although he’s still playing, looking and dribbling like a prime 26-year-old.
In fact, he just celebrated his 31st birthday a few days ago, although I don’t think it was a very happy occasion considering this.
And like Ronaldo, Messi’s only going from strength to strength, even though he has been touted as the greatest player to have played the sport since like the 1900s.
Yeah, I can just sense the Pele, Maradona and Ronaldo (both) fans just tilting at that.
2. World’s Greatest Player
Lest you’re unaware, a Ballon d’Or is an annual football award presented by France Football, and it’s widely considered as the highest accolade a footballer could possibly receive.
And here’s the thing; Messi has won this prestigious award not once, not twice, not 69 times but a total of five times.
Incidentally, he swept four of them in back-to-back seasons, an unprecedented feat that eclipses that of even Michel Platini’s hat trick with Juventus from 1983 to 1985.
But really, it’s no surprise seeing the sheer number of records he has broken while gracing the footballing world.
- FIFA Ballon d’Or/Ballon d’Or: 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015
- European Golden Shoe: 2010, 2012, 2013, 2017, 2018
- FIFA World Player of the Year: 2009
- FIFA World Cup Golden Ball: 2014
- Copa América Golden Ball: 2015
- UEFA Men’s Player of the Year Award: 2011, 2015
- UEFA Club Footballer of the Year: 2009
- UEFA Club Forward of the Year: 2009
- Globe Soccer Awards Best Player of the Year: 2015
- La Liga Best Player: 2008–09, 2009–10, 2010–11, 2011–12, 2012–13, 2014–15
- La Liga Best Forward: 2008–09, 2009–10, 2010–11, 2011–12, 2012–13, 2014–15, 2015–16
- FIFA Club World Cup Golden Ball: 2009, 2011
- FIFA Club World Cup Silver Ball: 2015
- FIFA Club World Cup Final Most Valuable Player: 2009, 2011
- FIFA World Youth Championship Golden Ball: 2005
- FIFA World Youth Championship Golden Shoe: 2005
- Olimpia de Plata (Argentine Footballer of the Year): 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017
- Copa América Best Young Player: 2007
- FIFPro Young World Player of the Year: 2006, 2007, 2008
- Golden Boy (Young European Footballer of the Year): 2005
- IFFHS World’s Best Playmaker: 2015, 2016, 2017
- La Liga Player of the Month: January 2016, April 2017, April 2018
FIFA FIFPro World XI: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017
- UEFA Team of the Year: 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017
- UEFA Ultimate Team of the Year
- La Liga Team of the Season: 2014–15, 2015–16
- UEFA La Liga Team of The Season: 2015–16, 2016–17
- FIFA World Cup Dream Team: 2014
- Copa América Dream Team: 2007, 2011, 2015, 2016
- AFA Team of All Time (published 2015)
- UEFA Goal of the Season: 2006–07, 2014–15, 2015–16
As such, Messi currently stands toe-to-toe with Ronaldo at 5 Ballon d’Ors each, though if things were to continue at this pace, Ronaldo will probably edge ahead this year.
Lionel Messi might be an exceptionally prolific player on the pitch, but it’s just that.
On the pitch.
Off the pitch, however, Messi comes across as a pretty unremarkable man with pretty reserved interests. For one, he prefers to stay at home and indulge in his gaming consoles, rather than enjoy a night of clubbing like many (if not all) of his compatriots.
And for two, he’s quiet by nature, and is a man of few words (which isn’t unusual, and certainly not weird). But it’s just that for a player as loud as him, it kinda doesn’t match up, you get what I’m saying).
In fact, only one other exceptional footballer has displayed such characteristic traits, and that’s the indomitable Paul Scholes.
4. Playstation addict
Incidentally, Messi has a pretty long history with the PlayStation console. Having been on it for as long as he was playing football, he might not be quite as good with the controller as with his own feet, but he’s still a force to be reckoned with.
Additionally, he also has a tendency to challenge online strangers on FIFA, which means that you might have actually played a game against the man himself.
But like many players, Messi has a slight inclination to rage quit when he’s on the losing end.
Yeah, you don’t really expect that from Messi. Maybe from a guy like me. But Messi?
5. Growth Hormone Deficiency
Messi might’ve been born with such supreme talent you wonder whether anyone out there’s actually planning to clone him and conquer the footballing world, but his journey to where he is wasn’t exactly smooth, so to speak.
See, when Messi was 10, he was actually diagnosed with Growth Hormone Deficiency, a medical condition that may contribute to decreased muscle mass, high cholesterol levels or poor bone density.
And honestly, that’s not something you really want to happen when you’re playing in a sport as physical as football.
And it gets even worse, considering the boy’s financial struggles. The growth hormone treatment he has to undergo costs at least $1,000 a month, and his family wasn’t exactly the most capable of producing that.
Granted, his father’s health insurance did cover two years of the treatment, but what after that?
Several local football clubs offered to pay for the treatment, but they were unable to, either due to reneged promises or the country’s economic collapse. Things were looking bleak, and the legend we know as Messi today…
Was in danger of fizzling out.
Just then, the family sought a trial with Spanish club Barcelona, and first team director Charly Rexach was so impressed he wanted to sign Messi straight away.
However, complications arose, and it wasn’t until later that year that Barcelona was asked to pledge their commitment or risk losing Messi, that Rexach offered a contract by way of a paper napkin (because he had no paper at hand).
Yes, guys, Messi’s first contract was on a paper napkin.
Though in hindsight, it certainly seemed like the bargain of the century, seeing how Messi has grown up to not just be Barcelona’s player of all time, but arguably the world’s greatest player of all time.
7. Tax evasions
Despite his reserved nature, Messi did find himself in trouble with the law on one previous occasion.
In 2013, Messi came under media scrutiny not for his usual on-the-pitch heroics, but for his off-the-field brush with the law, in the form of suspected tax evasion, no less.
Apparently, offshore companies located in tax havens Uruguay and Belize were utilised to evade a whopping €4.1 million in taxes that’s related to sponsorship earnings between 2007 and 2009.
Additionally, an unrelated shell company based in Panama and set up in 2012 was thereafter identified as being owned by the Messi in a data leak.
Messi, who pleaded ignorance of the alleged scheme, voluntarily paid arrears of €5.1 million in August 2013, He then stood trial alongside his father on three counts of tax evasions in May 2016, and was subsequently found guilty of tax fraud.
Handed suspended 21-month prison sentences, they were respectively directed to pay €1.7 million and €1.4 million in fines.
It’s noted, however, that Messi faced the judge and said this in his defence.
“I just played football.”
Having suffered his own share of troubles in early childhood, Messi was no stranger to financial difficulties. And it seems that the memories were a definite part of what made Messi so driven to be involved in charitable efforts.
Since 2004, the Argentinian has dedicated his time and finances to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), as well as serving as a UNICEF goodwill ambassador since March 2010.
Additionally, he also has his own charitable organisation called the Leo Messi Foundation, which supports rights such as health care, education and sport for children. This comes after a trip to a hospital for terminally ill children in Boston, where he was so affected by the experience that he decided to reinvest part of his earnings in society.
Last but not least, he has been a frequent contributor to the youth football system back in Argentina, with the funding of both facilities as well as youth players in several clubs.
Lionel Messi is said to enjoy a close relationship with his immediate family members, and it shows: the footballer has a tattoo of his mother’s face imprinted on his left shoulder.
And it certainly helps that his family are all involved in his work in one way or another.
His father has served as his agent since he was 14, and his oldest brother takes care of his daily schedule and publicity.
On the other hand, his mother, alongside his other brother manage the Leo Messi foundation, as well as settle personal and professional matters in Rosario.
Romantically, Messi has been attached to his girlfriend, Antonella Roccuzzo, since he was 20 (in 2008). But like a typical korean drama minus the bitchy mother-in-law, he has actually known her since he was 5, as she was the cousin of his best friend since childhood, Lucas Scaglia.
In June 2017, they tied the knot, and to date, they have three sons together.
10. Lionel Messi
Having established himself among the world’s best players even before he was 20, Messi has always been destined for greatness. In fact, Diego Maradona considered the 18-year-old him to be the best player in the world alongside the ever-charismatic Ronaldinho, who won the Ballon d’Or that year. And even then, the Brazilian, who was teammates with Messi in Barcelona then, had this to say:
“I’m not even the best at Barca.”
And in August 2009, Barcelona legend Pep Guardiola proclaimed Messi to be the best player he had ever seen. And that’s surely a tall compliment, considering the many talented players Guardiola plyed his trade with.
However, there’s one thing that naysayers have consistently rambled on about.
Messi hasn’t won the World Cup with Argentina. He’s not the best. Best club player maybe, but definitely not the best player of all time.
And indeed, Messi has so often felt the burden of carrying his team to international glory, only to miss out at the final stage. The World Cup 2014 final was his chance to, as some people see it, be the true G.O.A.T.
But despite putting in an exceptional performance, they ultimately lost 1-0.
With Messi being 31, this is probably the last chance the Argentinian will get to win the World Cup with his country.
And sad as it may seem, that might not be a reality considering the dismal form they’ve been displaying, including a 3-0 loss to Croatia.
As Croatia midfielder Luka Modric puts it:
“Messi is an incredible player but he can’t do everything alone.”
Nevertheless, you can’t help but root for the little magician, and maybe, just maybe, hope that this time round…
He will truly be the greatest of all time.
Although of course, as far as some are concerned.
He’s already the best.
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