Sunday, June 24, 2012
24 June 1987 - And He's Only 24
After initially playing for a local club managed by his father, Messi joined the youth program at Newell's Old Boys in 1995. There, he was diagnosed with a growth hormone deficiency. The costs of treatment, reported to be approximately $900 per month, proved a barrier for a rumored move to River Plate, but Barcelona were interested and agreed to cover the expenses as part of a deal that brought Messi to Spain in 2003.
He joined the Barcelona youth team, but made his senior team debut in 2004 at the age of 17 and tallied a total of nine appearances that season, followed by 25 in 2005-06. The next season, he secured a regular place in the first team, but his breakout season came in 2008-09, when he made a total of 51 appearances and scored 38 goals as Barcelona won their first La Liga title in three years and also lifted the Champions League trophy. That led to his first Ballon d'Or (and FIFA World Player of the Year award) in 2009.
Playing with a perfect blend of balance and ball control, his scoring continued to improve, with 47 goals in 2009-10, 53 in 2010-11, and an amazing 73 in 2011-12 as Barcelona won two more league titles (2010, 2011) and one more Champions League trophy (2011), while Messi claimed the 2010 and 2011 FIFA Ballons d'Or (a new award that combined the previous Ballon d'Or and FIFA World Player of the Year awards).
Along the way, he has also earned 70 caps for Argentina, providing 26 goals.