Lionel Andrés Messi Cuccittini (born 24 June 1987) is an Argentine professional footballer who is widely regarded as one of the greatest football players of all time. Messi plays as a forward for both Argentina as well as in club football for FC Barcelona. Messi displayed prodigious talent from an early age and he was awarded the Golden Ball (best player) award at the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship. Then just before turning 18, he became the youngest scorer for Barcelona at the time. Messi has played his entire career at Barcelona during which time he has led them to tremendous success including 10 La Liga (Spanish League), four UEFA Champions League (UCL) titles and six Copas del Rey. Messi holds a plethora of records in club football including the most goals scored in La Liga history; most goals in a La Liga season; most hat-tricks in La Liga; most hat-tricks in UCL; and being the fastest to 100 UCL goals. In international football, Messi is the all time leading goal-scorer for Argentina and has won the Golden Ball at the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Messi has won numerous honors during the course of his career. He has won a record six Ballon d’Or awards and a record six FIFA World Player of the Year/ Best FIFA Men’s Player awards. Here are the 10 most important achievements of Lionel Messi including his records in club and international football; as well as awards and honors received by him.
* All stats in the video are as of March, 2020.
#1 HE WON THE GOLDEN BALL AT THE WORLD YOUTH CHAMPIONSHIP
At the age of 11, Lionel Messi was diagnosed with growth hormone deficiency (GHD), a condition which stunted growth and required expensive medical treatment. However, due to his prodigious talent, Spanish professional football club FC Barcelona gave him a chance to train at their youth academy, La Masia, and offered to pay for his medical bills. In February 2001, the Messi family relocated to Barcelona. Lionel Messi has only played for FC Barcelona since he first signed the contract at age 13. Messi displayed his talent at the youth level. Along with Cesc Fabregas and Gerard Pique, he was an integral part of “Generation 87” or the “Baby Dream Team”, which is widely regarded as Barcelona’s greatest-ever youth side. It swept all before them, completing their U.15’s campaign unbeaten and winning the Catalan and Spanish league titles as well as the Copa Catalunya. At the international level, Lionel Messi led Argentina to victory at the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship. Moreover, he won both the Golden Ball and Golden Shoe awards which are awarded to the best player and the top-scorer of the tournament respectively.
#2 HE BECAME THE YOUNGEST EVER SCORER FOR FC BARCELONA
At the age of 16, Lionel Messi made his first team debut in a friendly with FC Porto. In the 2004 – 2005 season, Messi made his first appearance in an official match on October 16, 2004. He came on in the 82nd minute playing at the right wing position in the match against Espanyol. At the age of 17 years, 3 months and 22 days, Messi at the time was the youngest player to represent Barcelona in an official competition. He also debuted in the Champions League that season and played a combined 77 minutes. Messi scored his first goal for Barcelona on May 1, 2005 against Albacete. At the age of 17 years and 331 days, he was at that time the youngest ever scorer for the club. This record is now held by Ansu Fati. Soon Messi established himself as the first choice right winger in the eleven while forming an attacking trio with Ronaldinho and Samuel Eto’o. In the 2006 – 2007 season, Messi began establishing himself as one of the best players in the world scoring 17 goals in 36 games across all competitions. El Clásico (“The Classic”) is the name given to a match between fierce rivals FC Barcelona and Real Madrid. On March 10, 2007, Messi, still only 19 years old, scored his first hat-trick in a Clásico becoming the first player to do so in 12 years. As of 2020, Messi remains the top goal-scorer in El Clásico with 26 goals.
#3 HE HELPED FC BARCELONA WIN THE FIRST TREBLE IN SPANISH FOOTBALL HISTORY
In the 2008–2009 season, the first season where Messi played the full season without any injury issues, he scored 38 goals in 51 matches. 9 of those goals came in the Champions League making him the youngest ever player to win the Champions League top scorer award. Barcelona achieved stupendous success in that season. A treble is achieved when a club wins three major trophies in a single season. With 23 league goals from Messi that season, Barcelona became La Liga champions. In Copa del Rey, an annual knockout football competition in Spanish football, Messi scored once and assisted a second goal as Barcelona beat Athletic Bilbao 4–1 in the finals. In the Champions League, Messi scored the second goal in the final against Manchester United as Barcelona won 2–0. FC Barcelona thus achieved the first treble in the history of Spanish football. Moreover, they won three more trophies in the season to become the first club to achieve an unheard of sextuple. In the 2009–2010 season, Messi scored 47 goals in all competitions. His 34 goals helped Barcelona secure a second consecutive La Liga trophy. Though Barcelona lost in the semi-finals in the Champions Trophy, Messi was again the top scorer with 8 goals in the competition.
#4 HE HOLDS THE RECORD FOR MOST GOALS IN A CALENDAR YEAR
In the 2010–2011 season, Messi scored 53 goals while also providing 24 assists across all competitions. This made him the first player in Spanish football to reach the 50-goal benchmark. Barcelona won a third consecutive La Liga title with Messi scoring 31 goals. They also won the Champions League with Messi being the Man of the Match in their 3–1 victory over Manchester United in the final. Moreover, Messi, with 12 goals, was the competition’s top scorer for the third consecutive year. In the 2011–2012 season, Messi scored 73 goals and provided 29 assists in all club competitions. His 73 goals surpassed Gerd Müller’s 67 goals in the 1972–73 Bundesliga season. This made Messi the single-season top scorer in the history of European club football. Messi scored 50 goals in La Liga in the season which remains a record for most goals scored by a player in a La Liga season. Moreover, in 2012, Lionel Messi broke Gerd Müller’s record of most goals scored in a calendar year. Messi scored 91 goals in all competitions for Barcelona and Argentina while Muller had scored 85 goals in 1972 for Bayern Munich and Germany. Barcelona finished runners-up in the La Liga while they were defeated in the semis in the Champions League. However, they did win the Copa del Rey, UEFA Super Cup, FIFA Club World Cup and Supercopa de España.
#5 HE IS THE BARCELONA PLAYER WITH MOST LA LIGA TITLES
An injury in 2013 ended Messi’s goalscoring streak of 21 consecutive league games in which he had scored 33 goals. This remains an all time world record. In 2012–2013 season, Messi scored 60 goals in all competitions, including 46 goals in La Liga. In the following season, he scored 41 goals in all competitions, his worst output in five seasons. In the 2014–2015 season, the attacking trident of Messi, Luis Suárez and Neymar was formed. FC Barcelona won their second treble that season becoming the first team in history to do so. In the 2015–2016 season, Messi scored 41 goals as Barcelona’s trio broke an incredible goal-scoring record by scoring 131 goals between them. With that, they bested their previous record of 122 goals in the previous season. In the 2016–2017 season, Messi scored 54 goals while in the following season, he scored 45 goals. Barcelona finished 2nd and 1st in La Liga in the two seasons while they were eliminated in the quarters in the Champions League both times. In the 2018–2019 season, Messi scored 36 goals to help secure his 10th La Liga title. He thus became the first non-Spanish player in La Liga history to win 10 titles. Moreover, he is the player with most La Liga titles for Barcelona. He scored 51 goals in all competitions in the season while Barcelona lost in the Champions League in the semis. Moreover, during the season, Messi became the first player ever to reach double figures in La Liga for 13 consecutive seasons.
#6 HE HOLDS THE RECORD FOR MOST GOALS IN LA LIGA HISTORY
Lionel Messi has scored 723 senior career goals for club and country. As of 2019, he is seventh on the list for most goals ever scored by a player. With 437 goals, Messi holds the record for most goals in La Liga. He also holds the record for most goals in Supercopa de España (14) and the UEFA Super Cup (3). Messi has won the top scorer award in six La Liga seasons, a record he shares with Athletic Bilbao’s Telmo Zarra. Messi has scored 36 La Liga hat-tricks, the most in La Liga history. He also jointly holds the record for most hat-tricks in a single season with eight. Messi has been named the La Liga Best Player on six occasions while he has been named the La Liga Best Forward on seven occasions. In Champions League, Cristiano Ronaldo is the all-time top goal-scorer with 128 goals. Messi, with 114 goals, is second on the list. However, Messi is the fastest player to reach 100 Champions League goals in 123 games. He has been top scorer in five editions of UCL; which is two less than Ronaldo who holds the record. Messi also holds the record for most goals in a Champions League game. He scored 5 goals against Bayer Leverkusen on March 7, 2012. Messi’s 8 hat-tricks in the Champions League is also the most by any player. The European Golden Shoe is an award that is presented each season to the leading goal-scorer in league matches from the top division of every European national league. With six wins, Lionel Messi has won the most number of European Golden Shoe awards. Cristiano Ronaldo is second on the list with four wins.
#7 HE IS THE ALL TIME LEADING GOALSCORER FOR ARGENTINA
While Messi has achieved phenomenal success in club football, he has been criticized for not performing for Argentina. However, Messi has several important achievements while representing Argentina. He was part of the Argentine team that won the Olympic gold medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics. He played well in the tournament and was singled out by FIFA as the stand-out player from the tournament’s best team. At the 2006 FIFA World Cup, Messi became the youngest player to represent Argentina at a FIFA World Cup when he came on as a substitute in the 74th minute in the team’s second match against Serbia and Montenegro. Moreover, his final goal in their 6 – 0 victory made him the youngest scorer in the tournament and the sixth-youngest goal-scorer in the history of the World Cup. Argentina lost to Germany in the quarter final, a match Messi didn’t play. In the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Argentina was again defeated by Germany in the quarters. Though he didn’t score in the tournament as he mostly played the role of the playmaker, Messi was identified by FIFA as one of the tournament’s 10 best players. In 2011, at the age of 24, Lionel Messi became captain of the Argentine national side. In 2012, he scored 12 goals in 9 games for Argentina equaling the record held by Gabriel Batistuta for most goals scored in a calendar year for their country. Also, as of 2019, Lionel Messi is the all-time leading goal-scorer for Argentina with 70 goals in 138 appearances.
#8 LIONEL MESSI WON THE GOLDEN BALL AT THE 2014 FIFA WORLD CUP
The 2014 FIFA World Cup was the best for Lionel Messi as a player and captain. In the group stage of the tournament, Messi scored 4 goals helping his team top their group. Moreover, he was the Man of the Match in all the three Argentine wins in the group stage. Messi was again the Man of the Match in Argentina’s win in the round of 16 against Switzerland. Argentina then beat Belgium 1 – 0 to progress to the semi-final of the World Cup for the first time since 1990. Messi then scored his first penalty in his side’s win over Netherlands in the penalty shoot out in the semis. However, Argentina lost the final against Germany 1 – 0 after substitute Mario Götze scored for Germany in extra time. Lionel Messi was awarded the Golden Ball for being the best player in the tournament. He was also the joint third highest goal-scorer with four goals and one assist. In the 2018 FIFA World Cup, in the final group match of Argentina against Nigeria, Messi scored the opening goal in a 2 – 1 victory. This made him the third Argentine after Diego Maradona and Gabriel Batistuta to score in three different World Cups. Moreover, he also became the first player to score in the World Cup in his teens, twenties and his thirties. Argentina was eliminated in the round of 16 of the tournament by eventual winners France. Apart from the World Cup, Messi has also played in five Copa America Cups (2007, 2011, 2015, 2016 & 2019), losing in the final in both 2015 and 2016 to Chile on penalties.
#9 MESSI HAS WON A RECORD SIX BALLON D’OR AWARDS
The Ballon d’Or (“Golden Ball”) is a football award presented by the magazine France Football. Awarded since 1956, it is given to the male player deemed to have performed the best over the previous year. In 2009, at the age of 22, Lionel Messi received his first Ballon d’Or winning the award by a then record margin of 240 points. He then went on to win the FIFA Ballon d’Or, an amalgamation of the Ballon d’Or and the FIFA World Player of the Year award, in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2015. The partnership between the two associations ended in 2016 with Ballon d’Or reverting back to its original name while FIFA also reverting to its own separate annual award, now named The Best FIFA Men’s Player. In 2019, Lionel Messi won his sixth Ballon d’Or. To date, he has received the most Ballon d’Or awards by any player in history. He is followed by Cristiano Ronaldo, who has won five such awards. Apart from this, Messi has also won the 2009 FIFA World Player of the Year and The Best FIFA Men’s Player 2019. If you combine these awards with the FIFA Ballon d’Or, his tally of six awards is also the most by any player in history.
#10 HE IS FIRST FOOTBALLER TO WIN THE LAUREUS WORLD SPORTS AWARD
The Laureus World Sports Awards is an annual award ceremony honoring remarkable individuals from the world of sports along with the greatest sporting achievements throughout the year. Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi are the only footballers who have been nominated for the award on more than one occasion. Messi has been nominated for the award on six occasions and in 2020, he became the first footballer to win the Laureus World Sports Award. In 2011 and 2012, Lionel Messi was listed among the Time’s 100 most influential people in the world. Moreover, he was ranked as the world’s highest-paid athlete by Forbes in 2019. Messi has been involved in charitable efforts throughout his career. Among other things, he has contributed his time and finances to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) since 2004. He has served as a UNICEF goodwill ambassador since March, 2010. He has contributed to several UNICEF campaigns including those on HIV prevention, education and the social inclusion of disabled children. Apart from UNICEF, Messi established his own charitable organization in 2007. The Leo Messi Foundation supports access to health care, education and sport for children.