Money Smart Athlete Blog

Inspirational Athletes: Lionel Messi: The GOAT of football

Jan 25, 2023 | Inspirational Athletes

By Constantinos Massonos, Contributor      

It was a first for the worldwide football community to watch the 2022 FIFA World Cup taking place during November and December, instead of the typical June and July. There was a lot of anticipation for the tournament, not because of the dates on which it was taking place but rather because it felt like it was “a last dance” for one of the greatest footballers of all time, Lionel Messi.

Messi now at the age of 35, has already won some of the most prestigious trophies in the football world with his former club FC Barcelona, before moving to France and Paris Saint Germain in 2021. He is also the highest paid athlete for 2022 according to Forbes. Yet, Messi’s career could have finished before it even began if FC Barcelona did not decide to invest in his natural football talent.

Lionel Andres Messi was born on June 24 of 1987 in Santa Fe Province, Argentina. He started playing football at the age of 5 at a local club called Grandoli, where his father was also working as a coach and in 1994, he was scouted and recruited by top tier Argentinian football club Newell’s Old Boys. Despite his small stature, young Lionel was not a pushover and managed to score more than 500 goals during his tenure in Newell’s.

At the age of 11, Lionel’s height was 132 cm, and he hadn’t grown at all since he was 9. After a year of tests, he was diagnosed with Growth Hormone Deficiency. His father, a steelworker, and his mom, a part-time cleaner, tried their best to keep up with Lionel’s hormone therapy that cost around $1500 per month.

Utilizing family connections in Catalonia, Messi’s family managed to arrange a trial in La Masia and Lionel convinced the coaches that he was worth investing on. All his treatments were now covered by FC Barcelona, something that allowed him to eventually reach the average height for an Argentinean male.

A few years later, Barcelona started cashing in on its investment after Messi rose through the youth ranks to have his first team debut at the age of 17, next to players such as Ronaldinho and Samuel Eto’o and eventually becoming an iconic player for his club and his country.

The hardships Messi faced early in his life have played a huge role in building his humble character, both on and off the field, making him an inspiration to us all. His small size taught him to play with sharpness and quickness, making him stand out from the rest of his teammates. His rivalry with Cristiano Ronaldo will forever be one of the longest and fiercest rivalries between players in the history of sports.

And as in every fairy tale, the hero fights his demons, strives through adversity and finally manages to reach Ithaca. For Lionel Messi, who won almost everything during his 18-year tenure at the top football level, including 7 Ballon d’ Or, lifting the World Cup in Qatar on the 18th of December 2022 was reaching his Ithaca.

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