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Star Profile: Lionel Messi

2010-03-25 15:24 BJT

Full name: Lionel Andres Messi

Date of Birth: 24 June 1987

Birth place: Rosario (Argentina)

Height: 5'6 and a half" (1.69 metres)

Club: FC Barcelona

National team: Argentina

Shirt number: 19

Position: Attacking midfielder (right/centre)

Lionel Messi is the heir apparent to the throne left vacant by Diego Armando Maradona. The waters are divided between those who consider him to be far from being close to "The 10", and those who believe that Messi will be even better than Maradona.

Born in Rosario on June 24th, 1987, he cut his teeth in the youth ranks of Newell's Old Boys, until a hormonal problem that affected his growth changed the plans of his family and, of course, his personal future.

Facing the need of an expensive treatment for his son, Messi's parents moved to Spain, since Newell's was not able to afford the medical costs related to his condition, and even the wealthiest Argentine teams, such as River Plate, refused to foot the bill.

After his first try with the Catalonian soccer team, the trainers didn't have any doubts: They decided to sign Messi and pay for his medical treatment. His growth was noticeable within Barca, and in little time he came to be considered one of the great talents at the club.

He made his debut in the first division on October 16th, 2004, against Espanyol, and Barcelona has since adopted him as one of its greatest idols.

His first championship would come in the Liga season of 2004-2005. Since then, and playing in every season a more prominent role, he has won two more Liga titles and two UEFA Champions League titles, and won other tournaments like the Copa del Rey, Supercopa de España and the European Super Cup.

With the Argentine national team he participated in the 2006 World Cup, but wasn't a sure starter. He also won the U-20 World Cup in 2005 and the Olympic gold medal in Beijing 2008.

Strengths: His ball skills are second to none. His short spring and his runs from midfield are usually lethal.

Weaknesses: Way too often, he looks for a way to finish plays by himself without looking for teammates in a better position to shoot at goal.

Career high: In the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey 2007, against Getafe, he scored one of the most beautiful goals in footbal history, a play that started in midfield and ended in the box of the rival area. The goal was very similar to the second goal scored by Maradona against England at the '86 World Cup.

Career low: He was unable to display his best level of play in the 2006 World Cup in Germany, where Argentina were eliminated in the quarterfinals, with Messi looking on from the bench.

Style: Outstanding ball control at speed that is just about unmatched in world football.

Quotes: "Messi is my Maradona," said Maradona himself, as the head coach of the Argentine national team.

Trivia: His debut with the national team (against Hungary) was completely forgettable: he entered the game in the 18th minute of the second half, and 47 seconds later was sent off.

Soccernet says: Messi is the undisputed idol of Barcelona. His great challenge will be to earn the respect of the Argentine fans with a great showing at the World Cup. A good performance with the national team is still a debt he owes to the fans. To do that, he will have to forget about the shadow of Maradona. He needs to be Messi.