We all can ask each other about why we fell in love with the game. Some people would have loved the teamwork involved in the game while others could fall in love with the likes of Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo. Some people fell in love with winning while others could have fallen for the beauty of the crowd and the passion of supporters. As Lionel Messi turns 33, here we look back at his journey.
Born in Rosario, Argentina, we will be talking about a boy who fell in love with the big-rounded ball which we see everyday rolling down the pitch. He never wanted to let it go. There are a lot of little clips over the internet of fierce kicks, obstructions, stamps, cheating, reckless tackles and shirt grabbing. But, He frees himself and keeps going.
It looked as if he was hypnotized with the ball at his feet. Never did he care about the context of the game or the laws or the result of the game. His eyes are transfixed on the ball and the sheer intent of not letting it go whatever the hindrance might be.
Messi is the ardent disciple of the football we all love. Let us unite on his birthday and look back at the memories Messi’s love story with the football has given us. As he turns 33 and nears his day to hang up his boots, We would go back to the streets of Rosario as we watch him pave his way to the zenith of the game.
Chapter 1: Rosario, Argentina
He was born on the 24th of June,1987 to a steel factory manager in Rosario. Leo loved football from the very start, as he ran around with his older brothers with the ball in his feet. His family loved football which forced his father to let him join local club Grandoli.
He joined Newell’s Old Boys at the age of six where his grandmother took him for training and matches. She passed away before Leo turned 11 and Messi still remembers her after scoring a goal. Pointing at the sky, Leo looks for his grandmother in the hidden clouds and hopes she still watches her.
Shortly after, Messi was diagnosed with Growth-Hormone Deficiency Disorder where little Messi failed to grow. in height. The dream of the ardent child was broken as his parents and club were unable to pay for his medical bills. Argentine Club River Plate also denied paying for the bills of his ailment due to Argentina’s economic collapse.
Chapter 2: Barcelona, Spain
Just like a boon to every other curse, Leo’s dream of becoming a footballer and doing what he loves was rekindled by FC Barcelona as they did manage to set up a trial with Lionel Messi in September 2000. Messi enthralled each of the board directors but there was a hesitation as It was not allowed to sign such young foreign players at that time.
Messi and his family had to wait for the ‘Yes’ from Barcelona. The other clubs also wanted to look for a talent like Leo. Messi’s father decided to convey this to the FC Barcelona. First team director Charley Rexach decided to assure Leo’s importance to the club in the form of a written agreement in a paper napkin.
The Argentine wonder-kid never failed to impress and there was an insane drive about him when he had the ball on his feet. Off the field, He was a shy kind of guy as his teammates misunderstood him as mute. Messi’s moment of expression came as his feet touched the grass of the pitch while he made his way through the roughest of defenders.
In 2005 he was granted Spanish citizenship, an honour greeted with mixed feelings by the fierce Catalan supporters of Barcelona. In 2006, Leo Messi won his first Champions League.
He started to develop gradually and by 2008, He became one of the most dominant players in the world. Throughout this journey, Brazillian wizard Ronaldinho greatly influenced him as a mentor as the two football’s greatest wonders did combine to create some wonderful moments wearing the same colours.
Messi represented his home country Argentina in the 2008 Beijing Olympics with the likes of Sergio Aguero and Javier Mascherano. The Argentine men’s team won the gold medal at the Olympics.
Pep Guardiola: The Golden Age of Barcelona
Pep Guardiola, former Barcelona player was the assistant coach in the Barcelona youth academy when Messi joined the club. A perfectionist in nature, Pep Guardiola was also the jeweller who understood the quality of Lionel Messi. Guardiola was in charge at the Camp Nou between 2008 and 2012 and built one of the most dominant teams in the history of European football. Messi played as a False 9 and a Right-winger who would disturb defenders with his breath-taking runs and indomitable spirit as he glided past tough defenders and timed his blind-side runs.
Lionel Messi was supported by able midfielders in the likes of Iniesta and Xavi, where he Messi would burst out with power and ability to finish off with brilliance. He was the explosive part of the system which Pep developed in Barcelona where the Argentine was one of the most potent goalscorers in the squad. He won 3 Ballon D’Ors in those 3 years with Pep as manager and completed 2 European trebles in the space of 3 years.
Post Guardiola era
He broke Gerd Müller’s 39-year-old record with 73 goals in a single European football season in 2011-12. This made him the Ballon D’Or winner for the 4th consecutive time. This was also the maximum number of times such a feat was achieved by a footballer.
Barcelona won La-Liga next season to which Leo played an important part. Messi became the highest goal-scorer for Barcelona at the mere age of 27 years as he broke Paulinho Alcantara’s record for maximum goals for the club. He also broke the career records of most number of goals in Champions League and La Liga in late 2014.
During such a situation in his career where Lionel Messi was freely breaking records top, bottom, and centre, the first-team Barcelona coach Tito Villanova did pass away due to parotid gland cancer. Messi was greatly affected by his death and is said to have made a promise to Tito that he won’t leave Barcelona.
THE MSN Trident
Neymar Jr joined Barcelona in the year of 2013 as a transfer from Brazillian club Santos. Lionel Messi, one of the senior members made sure Neymar had everything and feels at ease at the Catalonia capital. The two Latin American stars along with Uruguayan Suarez became one of the deadliest trios in world football. They registered another treble under the management of Luis Enrique. Messi led the team with 43 goals scored throughout the campaign, which resulted in his fifth world player of the year honour.
I have a nice story about Messi.Neymar Jr, former Barca player
Soon after I arrived, it was not a great moment in my career and he was the one who helped me. He saw that I was sad, with my head down, that things were not going right for me.
He told me to keep going, to be happy and to play the way I know. He told me this and he helped me a lot at that moment in time.
He is a person who I admire a lot.
He found the net around 41 times in 2015–16 which earned Barcelona a domestic double. Barcelona failed to win the league next year despite Messi leading the scoring charts.
Neymar was slowly rising to a standard to be one of the best players in the world. The Brazillian superstar wanted a challenge in his life and mentioned that he won’t have a proper say in the team affairs alongside Messi. Messi had left no stone unturned to be the Catalan King and it would require humongous efforts to turn the tide for Neymar. As an added incentive, Paris Saint Germain proposed a huge salary wage bill of Neymar and promised him that he would be the spotlight of the club. Neymar did not agree to stick around his idol and his club which gave him trophies and recognition which he always needed. He left Paris for the desired spotlight and money and started dreaming of a different story.
This will take us back to a decision which Messi took to stick around a club which gave him what he needed to express with his feet. He decided to play as a part of a team and rose to the place where he is now. Neymar fell to the greed to want more and fell into the trap.
Chapter 3: Lionel Messi’s bitter International Career
Messi made his international debut on August 17, 2005 against Hungary. The young forward came on in the 63rd minute but was sent off in the 65th minute after the referee showed him a red card. Did anyone know that it would be a start of misfortunes in the La Albiceleste kit?
Despite being a part of the gold medal-winning Olympics team in 2008, Messi’s Argentina disappointed all of the Argentine fans with Diego Maradona as the coach in the 2010 World Cup. Messi failed to register a single goal in the campaign which was quite contrasting to his Barcelona career. Messi became the captain of the team since then as he wore the armband for the first time in the 2010 World Cup.
But, It had always been that for him in the blue and white colours. Disappointing performances continued into the Copa America next year. He failed to link up with several of his national attackers like Tevez or Higuain which made him suffer public hate.
Sabella was appointed as Argentina Coach and Messi’s productivity increased as a result.
2014 World Cup and Copa America’r Woes
Sabella’s Argentina started brilliantly in the World Cup with classy defensive displays which saw them go past all the teams with ease. Argentina was up against Germany for the final and Lionel Messi, It was the opportunity of his life to lift the Cup. Lionel Messi failed to score in several opportunities and had an assist ruled out due to an offside call. Substitute Mario Götze finally scored in the 113th minute which saw Germany take the cup. It was an opportunity missed as Messi disappointedly picked up the Golden Ball Trophy.
The Copa America campaign failed drastically for the 2 following years as they fell to Chile two times in the finals of 2014 and 2015. The Argentine played below his standards in both the games and sent a penalty over the bar in the shootout of 2015 Copa America. The Argentine failed to live up to expectations in big games where he was expected to run off the opponents with his talent. He was labelled as a leader who lacked motivation and desire to inspire his teammates.
As Argentina continued a trophy drought that began in 1993, the World Cup and Copa América defeats again brought intense criticism for Messi from Argentine media and fans. After the final of 2016 Copa America, he decided to discontinue his Argentine career.
Return and 2018 World Cup
A person who quits his way on his quest to become a champion should always be criticized. Messi is ridiculed as a Catalan and is a constant source of public hate among Argentine citizens as he was a source of all dreams for his countrymen, but he failed to produce as per their demands. Messi decided to come back the following month to join Argentina in their World Cup qualifier campaign. He scored a hattrick in the do-or-die 3-0 win over Ecuador which made them qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
During the 2018 World Cup and the Copa America 2019, Messi had radically changed into a much more vocal leader than a silent playmaker strolling around the pitch. Argentina did fare poorly in both the tournaments crashing out in the last 16 and last 4 respectively.
Argentina Career Overview and Future
Lionel Messi had always had problems adjusting to his national team. The national team did always lack a structure for the playmaker to strive and a proper team to build with a perfect coach. Latin American teams have always been wayward about their international success and have failed to register any proper solid system, very much unlike what Messi was accustomed to Barcelona.
The Argentine coach, Lionel Scaloni is building a team for the future which looks promising, but it needs proper management from the federation. For Lionel Messi, it looks hard for him to have a shot at the International trophy again.
But hope he never gives up on his dreams.
But, It had always been a crown of thorns for the Little Genius, Wasn’t it?
Final chapter: Barcelona captain and the future as Lionel Messi turns 33
Barcelona won the domestic double in 2017-18. With the departure of former captain Andrés Iniesta 2018, Lionel Messi took over as Barcelona’s new captain for the following season. Lionel Messi scored 51 goals across all domestic competitions in 2018–19 as they won another La Liga championship. In December 2019 he won his sixth career Ballon d’Or.
Messi is the focal point of every move Barcelona creates nowadays. The managerial and the financial decisions of the club have gone haywire from time to time. The future of the club looks very bleak because of Messi being the fulcrum of every move it has made over the past few years. Gone are the days where Messi was a part of a system that was operated with him on the top to pull out a miracle every week. Football is a team game where everyone has to step on the gas at different times, which is what we rarely see in FC Barcelona nowadays.
“The people at the club know me. They know there’s no problem beyond what the contract says. What I feel for this club goes beyond any signature or any role. So there isn’t a problem.”Lionel Messi on his future at the club.
Messi has been a brilliant performer of the team for ages now. Never we had seen a player who had such an impact on the success of the club. His Barcelona career has been nothing short of a fairy-tale but when the pen runs out of ink, the paper is slowly falling apart. The advantage which FC Barcelona has taken for a long time by milking his talent into records and letting Messi do everything.
But a club is more than that. It requires intelligent management to eke out a sustainable future. The youth ranks from which the likes of Messi, Iniesta, Xavi, Pique rose, need to gear up and the management needs to give them way into the team. Barcelona has not done enough to utilize the Lionel Messi to help build the future of the club.
The Argentine Prodigy will always be one of the wonders of the game of football. As we near the age of his retirement, he would be among the last set of individuals who always cared for the game of football.
Football, today, has very clear regulations by which, a lot of times, going to the ground could mean securing a penalty or getting an opposition player booked because it could be useful in later counter-attacks. Lionel Messi had always been set out as a genius who is a perfect cog in a machine who does his job well, sometimes too well. He has been subject to a lot of criticism for not performing in big stages.
Perhaps we labelled him as a God wrongly, He was always the human being who is gifted to do the wonderful things he does.
The boy from Rosario who always had an intolerable drive for the big-sized football.
He was always meant to glide past as defenders could just stare into each other’s faces.
Perhaps, that is the beauty for him, Trophies are just pieces of metal and records could just decay from the books.
As Lionel Messi turns 33, could he lead Barcelona to more glories ? Let us know in the comment section below!