Lionel Andrés Messi (born June 24, 1987 in Rosario) is an Argentine football (soccer) player.
Lionel Messi started playing football at a very early age for his hometown club, Newell's Old Boys. From the age of 11, he suffered from a hormone deficiency and as his parents were unable to pay for treatment in Argentina, they decided to move to Barcelona, Spain. Shortly after arriving, Lionel tried his luck with a trial at FC Barcelona, despite being only 13 years of age. He excelled at the trial and rapidly found himself starting for the Barcelona B team, averaging more than a goal per game.
In October 2004 Messi made his official debut for the first team against Espanyol, becoming the third-youngest player to ever play for FC Barcelona. He scored his first senior goal for the club against Albacete on May 1, 2005. He was offered the chance to play for the Spanish national football team, but declined, prefering to wait for the opportunity to play for the country of his birth. In June 2004 he got his chance, playing in an under-20 friendly match against Paraguay.
In June 2005 Messi starred for the Argentina U-20 team that won the Football World Youth Championship in The Netherlands, picking up the Golden Boot as top scorer with 6 goals, and the Golden Ball for the best player of the tournament. Despite his youth, Lionel was already being compared to Diego Maradona, one of the greatest football players of all time. On June 27, 2005 FC Barcelona renewed his contract until 2010, establishing a selling clause of €150 million.
On August 4, José Pekerman called him up to the senior Argentine national team. He made his debut against Hungary - coincientally the very same side that Maradona debuted against for Argentina. However, he only played for three minutes of the game, being shown a red card in his first attempt on goal. Messi obtained Spanish citizenship on September 25 and was finally able to make his debut in this season's Spanish First Division. He had previously been unable to play because FC Barcelona had filled their quota of non-EU players. Messi's first outing in the UEFA Champions League at the Nou Camp was on September 28 against the Italian club Udinese. He impressed with some great passing and a seemingly telepathic relationship with Ronaldinho that earned him a standing ovation from the 70,000-odd Nou Camp faithful. On December of that year, the Italian newspaper Tuttosport awarded him the Golden Boy 2005 title for the best under-21 player in Europe, ahead of Wayne Rooney and Lukas Podolski.