Yesterday morning, Lionel Messi continued to shine with a hat-trick in Barcelona’s 4-0 victory over APOEL. Thanks to that, El Pulga surpassed the legendary Raul and officially became the top scorer in Champions League history with 74 goals.
A few days ago, the Argentine superstar also set a new record in La Liga with 253 goals, putting an end to Telmo Zarra ‘s record of 251 goals that has stood for nearly 60 years . So, to achieve success today, what did Messi have to go through?
Messi has just broken Rául’s record of 71 goals and is currently four goals ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo.
In 1987, Argentina was the World Cup champion and Diego Maradona was considered the best player in the world. However, at that time, few people could have imagined that, in a poor area in the city of Rosario, Argentina’s third largest city, a new legend of the football village was born.
Lionel Andres Messi is the third son of Jorge Messi , a steel worker, and Celia Cuccittini , a janitor. On June 24, 1987, Messi was born healthy but weighing only 3 kg and 47 cm tall. Things have never been easy for El Pulga .
From the very first days, football has been a part of Messi ‘s life . Rosario Central was crowned Argentina champion two weeks before Messi was born, but El Pulga inherited his father’s passion for another team in the city: Newell’s Old Boys. “ Whenever Mom asks Leo to go out and help with errands, he always takes the ball with him. If there were no balls, he would make one himself from a plastic bag or socks ,” said Messi ‘s brother Matias .
From the age of 3, Messi began to become “best friends” with the ball. A few years ago, the Barcelona striker once revealed: ” I was given my first ball when I was a baby, 3 or 4 years old. From then on, whatever it is, Christmas or birthday, the only gift I want is a ball .” Messi often goes to see his brother play at a poor local club, Grandoli. Grandoli’s youth team coach at that time was Salvador Aparicio , one day, Aparicio discovered he was missing a player.
“ I looked up in the stands and saw him playing with a ball ,” Aparicio told Goal before his death in 2008, “ but he was too young, so we decided to wait for the bridge. The other player came, but in the end he didn’t show up, so I asked Messi’s mother to lend me him for a while. His mother disagrees with the idea, saying that he has never played a match. Messi’s grandmother was also present and she said: ‘Come on, let the boy play ‘ ! And then they lent him to me .”
Messi has been passionate about the ball since he was a child.
“ The first time the ball got to his feet, he just looked at it and let it slide. He didn’t even move. But the next time the ball hit him, it almost hit his left foot. Then he started to control it and ran to the other side of the field. He dribbles past everyone who gets in his way. I yelled at him to shoot, but he was too young. From that day on, he was always on my team ”, quoted Aparicio .
At the time, Messi was only 5 years old, but it didn’t take long for the little boy from Rosario to learn how to shoot and score. “ Later, in the youth team, he used to score 6-7 goals per game. Instead of waiting for the goalkeeper to kick the ball, he would grab the ball and start dribbling around the field. He is extraordinary ,” concluded Aparacio .
At the age of 9, Messi joined the club he still supports to this day, Newell’s Old Boys. During his time at Newell’s,Messi has become an important piece in the “Maquina de la ’87” generation (the 87 machine) that has only lost one game in four years. The reason this name is so named is because all the players in the team were born in 1987.
Messi in Newell’s Old Boys shirt (bottom middle row).
At the age of 11, Messi was found to have GHD (growth hormone deficiency). Without timely treatment, El Pulga ‘s dream of becoming a professional player will be a thing of the past. Contrary to what the press reported, Newell’s once tried to pay for his promising star’s medicine, but with the team in crisis and with little funding, Messi’s father began to get impatient . Mr. Jorge thought about bringing the whole family to Australia, but then he believed that his son’s talent could help the family overcome difficulties. He decided to bring Messi to River Plate “trial”.
Here, the 13-year-old striker quickly impressed when playing with players 3 years older than him. It was also here that Messi first met Gonzalo Higuain , his future teammate in the Argentina team.
However, when Messi’s father asked River for a job and a house in Buenos Aires, River refused. On the other hand, Newell’s proved to be very stubborn in the negotiation process, so the transfer also went up in smoke. Instead, Jorge met with representatives of a talent agency, who called his lawyer Juan Mateo , and then a video of Messi flipping an orange (113 times in a row) and tennis balls (120 times) sent to Barcelona scout Josep Minguella .
Messi in his early days at Barcelona (bottom row, far left).
Most surprisingly, just a video like that was enough for Messi to win a place in the Barca test. After that, El Pulga set out for the Catalan capital with his father and an intermediary named Fabian Soldini. The 27-year-old superstar’s first contract was signed on a napkin by his father, Minguella and former Barca midfielder Carles Rexach , but Messi ‘s future remained uncertain for the next three years. His father did not have a job, the club broke promises a few times, things only became “easy” when the contract with a salary of 4000 euros a month was given to the Messi family in 2004 .
In the same year, a taller and stronger Messi made his debut for the Barcelona first team at the age of 17. In the same season, Messi scored his first goal for the Catalan side with a skillful lob against Albacete. “ When we first saw him, he was so small that we wondered what he was doing here ,” said Gerard Pique of his team-mate. Now, after a decade, the rickets boy has not only become the top scorer in La Liga history, but also leads the record for the number of goals in the Champions League.
Messi has now become one of the best players in Barcelona in particular and the world in general.