Lionel Messi, the winner of most Golden Ball and Golden Shoe Awards | Sunday Observer

Lionel Messi, the winner of most Golden Ball and Golden Shoe Awards

27 November, 2022

Lionel Messi is the captain of the Argentine team. With 164 appearances for Argentina, Messi is not only his country’s best player but one of the greatest-ever players. Messi has scored 785 career goals for club and country. He has won a record seven Ballon d’Or awards and a record six European Golden Shoes. Messi holds the record of 90 goals, the most international goals by a South American.

Affectionately known as ‘Leo,’ he spent his entire professional career with Barcelona, where he won a club-record of thirty-five trophies, including ten La Liga titles, seven Copa del Rey titles and four UEFA Champions Leagues. Messi holds the records for most goals in La Liga (474); most goals in a La Liga and European league season (50); most hat-tricks in La Liga (36) and UEFA Champions League (8); and most assists in La Liga (192), a La Liga season (21) and the Copa America (17).

With Barcelona, he dominated the football scene from 2004 to 2021, making 778 appearances, scoring 672 goals, and assisting 303. As an integral player in his first uninterrupted season in 2008–09, aged twenty-two, he helped Barcelona to achieve the first treble in Spanish football, winning his first Ballon d’Or in 2009 and continued winning the prestigious award four consecutive seasons, making him the first to do so.

Messi is winner of a gold medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics. He holds the national record for appearances and is also the country’s all-time leading goal scorer. At youth level, he won the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship, finishing the tournament with both the Golden Ball and Golden Shoe. He was chosen the Argentine Footballer of the Year, fourteen times 2005 through 2021.

Messi became the youngest Argentine to play and score in a FIFA World Cup in 2006. He reached the final of 2007 Copa America and was named ‘Young Player of the Tournament.’ As Captain from 2011, he led Argentina to three consecutive finals: the 2014 FIFA World Cup, for which he won the Golden Ball, and the 2015 and 2016 Copa America, winning the Golden Ball in 2015.

Messi led his country to qualification for 2018 FIFA World Cup, a third-place finish at the 2019 Copa America, and won the 2021 Copa America, while winning the Golden Ball and Golden Boot. This achievement secured him a record seventh Ballon d’Or in 2021. Currently, he plays as a forward for Ligue 1 Club Paris Saint-Germain.

Messi was among Time’s ‘100 Most Influential People in the World’ in 2011 and 2012.In 2020, he was awarded the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year, thus becoming the first footballer and the first team sport athlete to win the award. He was the world’s highest-paid footballer during 2009-14 and was ranked the world’s highest-paid athlete by Forbes in 2019 and 2022.

Player Profile

Due to his short stature, Messi has a lower centre of gravity than taller players, which gives him greater agility, allowing him to change direction more quickly and evade opposing tackles. Despite being physically unimposing, he possesses significant upper-body strength.

His short, strong legs allow him to excel in short bursts of acceleration while his quick feet enable him to retain control of the ball when dribbling at speed. Messi is a left-footed player; with the outside of his left foot, he usually begins dribbling runs, while he uses the inside of his foot to finish and provide passes and assists.

Messi is known for his finishing, positioning, quick reactions, and ability to make attacking runs to beat the defensive line. He also functions in a play-making role, courtesy of his vision and range of passing. He has often been described as a magician; a conjurer, creating goals and opportunities. Moreover, he is an accurate free kick and penalty kick taker.

Widely considered to be the best dribbler in the world, he most often played in a false nine role; positioned as a centre-forward or lone striker, he would roam the centre, often moving deep into midfield and drawing defenders with him, to create and exploit spaces for passes, other teammates’ attacking runs off the ball.

Birth and Growth

Lionel Andres Messi was born on June 24, 1987 in Rosario, Santa Fe, the third of four children of Jorge Messi and Celia Cuccittini. Growing up in a tight-knit, football-loving family, “Leo” developed a passion for the sport, playing constantly with his older brothers, Rodrigo and Matias, and his cousins.

At 4, he joined local club Grandoli, where he was coached by his father, though his earliest influence as a player came from his maternal grandmother, Celia, who accompanied him to training and matches. As a devout Catholic Christian, he has celebrated his goals by looking up and pointing to the sky in tribute to his grandmother.

A lifelong supporter of Newell’s Old Boys, Messi joined the Rosario club when he was six, scoring almost five hundred goals as a member of “The Machine of ‘87,” the near-unbeatable youth side named for the year of their birth. However, his future as a professional player was threatened when, aged ten, he was diagnosed with a growth hormone deficiency.

After completing his growth hormone treatment, Messi became an integral part of Barcelona’s greatest youth side. During his first full season (2002–03), he was top scorer with thirty-six goals in thirty games. After a year at Barcelona’s youth academy, La Masia, he was enrolled in the Royal Spanish Football Federation in 2002 and made his debut for Barcelona at 17 in 2004.

The Copa Catalunya final, a 4–1 victory over Espanyol, became known in club lore as the partido de la mascara, the final of the mask. Messi was allowed to start the game wearing a plastic protector; soon hindered by the mask, he took it off and scored two goals in 10 minutes.

FIFA 2006 World Cup

Messi, aged eighteen, won his first call-up on August 17, 2005 against Hungary. Messi made his senior debut when he came on in the 63rd minute. Later, he returned to the team in their World Cup qualifier to defeat Paraguay. Messi started his first game in the qualifying match against Peru, scoring a crucial penalty to secure victory. He scored his first goal against Croatia on March 1, 2006.

During the 2006 World Cup in Germany, Messi became the youngest to represent Argentina when he came on as a substitute in the 74th minute against Serbia and Montenegro. He scored the final goal in a 6–0 victory, making him the youngest scorer. Messi started against the Netherlands and later played Mexico on his 19th birthday.

Messi was chosen to represent Argentina at the 2007 Copa America held in Venezuela and was named the Best Young Player of the tournament. At the 2008 Summer Olympics, he scored the opening goal in their 2–1 victory over the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire. Then won against Australia 1–0, the Netherlands 2–1, Brazil 3–0 and Nigeria 1-0 in the final to win the Olympic gold medal.

FIFA 2010 World Cup

At the 2010 World Cup, Messi score a goal in their 4–0 victory over Venezuela. During that game, played on March 28, 2009, he wore Argentina’s number 10 shirt for the first time. At the start of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, Messi wore the captain’s armband for the first time in their 2–0 win against Greece.

In 2011, the Argentine team was built around 24-year Messi and he was appointed Captain. Messi went on to lead by example as their best player, scoring his first goal for Argentina in two-and-a-half years during the first World Cup match against Chile.

Messi scored 25 times 32 appearances during the following three years. He netted a total of twelve goals in nine games for Argentina in 2012, equalling the record held by Gabriel Batistuta for the most goals scored in a calendar year. His first international hat-trick came against Switzerland on February 29, 2012, followed by two more hat-tricks over Brazil and Guatemala.

During the 2011–12 season, he set the La Liga and European records for most goals scored in a single season, while establishing himself as Barcelona’s all-time top scorer.

Messi then helped Argentina secure their place in the 2014 World Cup with a 5–2 victory over Paraguay, taking his tally to thirty-seven goals to become Argentina’s second highest goal scorer behind Gabriel Batistuta.

FIFA 2014 World Cup

At the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, he was awarded the Man of the Match in the first four matches. In his first World Cup as Captain, he led Argentina to a 2–1 victory over Bosnia and Herzegovina, scoring his first World Cup goal. Then he led Argentina to a 1–0 win over Iran, 3-2 over Nigeria, 1–0 against Switzerland, 1–0 against Belgium and 4-2 over the Netherlands in a penalty shootout. Germany beat Argentina in the final 1-0 and Messi was awarded the Golden Ball.

He regained his best form during the 2014–15 campaign, becoming the all-time top scorer in La Liga and leading Barcelona to a historic second treble, after which he was awarded a fifth Ballon d’Or in 2015.

In another final appearance at 2015 Copa America, held in Chile, Argentina won 1–0 against Uruguay. Messi earned his 100th cap for his country in the match against Jamaica, winning 1-0 and becoming the fifth Argentine to achieve the milestone with a total of forty-six goals.

As Messi evolved from the team’s symbolic Captain into a genuine leader, he led Argentina to beat Colombia 5–4 in a penalty shootout with Messi netting his team’s first spot kick. At the semi-final, Messi excelled as a playmaker with a 6–1 victory over Paraguay. Argentina lost the final to Chile 4–1 in a penalty shootout.

In Copa America Centenario match against Panama, Messi was left on the bench but he entered in the 61st minute and scored a hat-trick in 19 minutes, as the match ended in a 5–0 victory, Messi earned the Man of the Match.

Messi produced another Man of the Match performance to win 4-1 against Venezuela, which enabled him to equal Gabriel Batistuta’s record of fifty-four goals for Argentina. This record was broken after three days when Messi secured a 4–0 win against the United States earning the Man of the Match.

At the final, Argentina lost to Chile on penalties. After the match, Messi, announced his retirement from international football. He stated, “I tried my hardest. The team has ended for me, a decision made.” Messi finished the tournament winning the most of three Man of the Match awards. Later, Messi reversed his decision from retiring on August 12, 2016.

On September 1, Messi scored to win 1–0 over Uruguay. On October 10, Messi led his country to World Cup qualification scoring a hat-trick to defeat Ecuador 3–1, becoming the joint all-time leading scorer in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifiers with 21 goals.

FIFA 2018 World Cup

At the 2018 World Cup, during Argentina’s match against Nigeria, Messi scored the opening goal in a 2–1 victory, winning the Man of the Match award and becoming the third Argentine after Diego Maradona and Gabriel Batistuta to score in three different World Cups. He also became the first player to score in the World Cup in his teens, twenties, and his thirties. Messi assumed captaincy of Barcelona in 2018, and he won a record sixth Ballon d’Or in 2019.

In the 2019 Copa America, Messi scored the equalising goal to draw 1–1 with Paraguay. In the third-place match against Chile, Messi set-up the opening goal to win 2–1 and capture the bronze medal. On November 15, Messi played in the Superclasico de las Americas versus Brazil, scoring the winning goal. In 2020, on October 8, Messi scored a penalty in a 1–0 victory against Ecuador, giving Argentina a winning start to their 2022 World Cup campaign.

In 2021, Messi scored from a free kick to ensure 1–1 draw with Chile in Copa America in Brazil. On June 21, Messi played in his 147th match and equalled Javier Mascherano’s record for most appearances for Argentina in a 1–0 win over Paraguay. A week later, he broke the record for most appearances in an Argentina shirt when he featured in a 4–1 win against Bolivia, scoring twice. On July 3, Messi scored from a free-kick to register a 3–0 win over Ecuador.

On July 6, 2021 Messi made his 150th appearance for his country in a 1–1 draw against Colombia. He later netted his spot kick in Argentina’s eventual 3–2 penalty shoot-out victory to progress to his fifth international final and defeated hosts Brazil 1–0 in the final, with Messi earning his first major international title. Messi was directly involved in nine out of the twelve goals scored by Argentina and was awarded the Golden Boot.

On September 9, 2022 Messi scored a hat-trick in a 3–0 home win over Bolivia in a 2022 World Cup qualifier and reached seventy-nine goals, becoming South America’s top male international scorer surpassing Pele with 77 goals. On June 2, 2022, Messi assisted twice in a 3–0 victory against Italy and was named the Man of the Match. Then on June 6, Messi scored all five Argentina goals in a 5–0 victory over Estonia.

Personal Life

Messi holds citizenship of Argentina, Italy, and Spain. He married Antonela Roccuzzo and they have been blessed with three sons: Thiago (November 2012), Mateo (September 2015) and Ciro (March 2018).

He enjoys a close relationship with his immediate family, particularly his mother, Celia, whose face he has tattooed on his left shoulder. His professional affairs are managed as a family business: his father Jorge as his agent since age 14; his oldest brother, Rodrigo, manages his daily schedule and publicity; his mother and other brother, Matias, manage his charity, the Leo Messi Foundation, and his personal and professional interests in Rosario.

Messi has been involved in charitable efforts aimed at vulnerable children, a commitment that stems from the medical difficulties he faced. Since 2004, he has contributed to the UNICEF, serving as a goodwill ambassador with his first field mission in Haiti. He has participated in numerous UNICEF campaigns.

He maintains close ties with his hometown, even preserving his distinct Rosarino accent and ownership of his family’s old house. Messi has said: “Argentina is my country, my family, my way of expressing myself. I would change all my records to make the people in my country happy.”

(The author is an Associate Professor, International Scholar, winner of Presidential Awards and multiple National Accolades for Academic pursuits. He possesses a PhD, MPhil, and double MSc. His email is [email protected])