|Nick Name:||Leo, Atomic Flea, La Pulga, La Pulga Atomica, Messidona|
|Current Team:||FC Barcelona|
|Height:||170 cm (5' 7'')|
|Birth Day:||June 24, 1987|
|Birth Place:||Rosario, Argentina|
Star soccer forward who gained world fame while playing with FC Barcelona and as captain of Argentina's national team. He won the Ballon d'Or four straight years from 2009 to 2012 and he received the Golden Ball Award after leading the Argentinian national team to the World Cup Championship game in 2014.
|#1||Matias Messi||Brother||$2 Million (Approx.)||N/A||38||Celebrity Family Member|
|#2||Rodrigo Messi||Brother||$2 Million (Approx.)||N/A||40||Celebrity Family Member|
|#6||Celia Oliveira Cuccittini||Grandmother||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|#7||Rosa Maria Pérez||Grandmother||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|#8||Celia María Cuccittini||Mother||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|#9||Maria Sol Messi||Sister||$2 Million (Approx.)||N/A||27||Celebrity Family Member|
|#10||Antonela Roccuzzo||Spouse||$2 Million (Approx.)||N/A||32||Celebrity Family Member|
|#11||Thiago Messi||$1 Million - $2 Million (Approx.)||N/A||8||Celebrity Family Member|
|#12||Antonella Roccuzzo||$20 Million||N/A||32||Instagram Star|
|#13||Ciro Messi Roccuzzo||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|#14||Mateo Messi Roccuzzo||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|#15||Thiago Messi Roccuzzo||N/A||N/A||N/A|
He was diagnosed with a growth hormone deficiency when he was 11 years old and his local club, River Plate, did not want to pay to treat it, so he moved to Spain to play for FC Barcelona.
Lionel Messi plays for the team FC Barcelona
|#1||Lionel Messi||33||$400 Million||$92 Million||Argentina|
|#2||Jordi Alba||31||$16 Million||$4 Million||Spain|
|#3||Gerard Pique||33||$80 Million||$10 Million||Spain|
|#5||Arturo Vidal||33||$16 Million||$6 Million||Chile|
|#7||Luis Suarez||33||$70 Million||$20 Million||Uruguay|
|#8||Marc-Andre ter Stegen||28||N/A||4.68 million EUR (2019)||Germany|
|#9||Marc Ter Stegen||28||N/A||N/A||Germany|
|#13||Sergio Busquets||32||$45 Million||$8 Million||Spain|
|#14||Antoine Griezmann||29||$60 Million||N/A||France|
|#16||Frenkie de Jong||23||N/A||N/A||Netherlands|
Messi was born on 24 June 1987 in Rosario, the third of four children of Jorge Messi, a steel factory manager, and his wife Celia Cuccittini, who worked in a magnet manufacturing workshop. On his father's side, he is of Italian and Spanish descent, the great-grandson of immigrants from the northcentral Adriatic Marche region of Italy and Catalonia, and on his mother's side, he has primarily Italian ancestry. Growing up in a tight-knit, football-loving family, "Leo" developed a passion for the sport from an early age, playing constantly with his older brothers, Rodrigo and Matías, and his cousins, Maximiliano and Emanuel Biancucchi, both of whom became professional footballers. At the age of four 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. He was greatly affected by her death, shortly before his eleventh birthday; since then, as a devout Catholic, he has celebrated his goals by looking up and pointing to the sky in tribute to his grandmother.
Ahead of the 2008 Summer Olympics, Barcelona legally barred Messi from representing Argentina at the tournament as it coincided with their Champions League qualifying matches. After interference from newly appointed Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola, who had won the tournament in 1992, Messi was permitted to join Sergio Batista's under-23 squad in Beijing. During the first match, he scored the opening goal and assisted another in their 2–1 victory over the Ivory Coast. Following a 1–0 win in the next group match against Australia, ensuring their quarter-final qualification, Messi was rested during the game against Serbia, while his side won the match to finish first in their group. Against the Netherlands, he again scored the first goal and assisted a second strike to help his team to a 2–1 win in extra time. After a 3–0 semi-final victory over Brazil, Messi assisted the only goal in the final as Argentina defeated Nigeria to claim Olympic gold medals. Along with Riquelme, Messi was singled out by FIFA as the stand-out player from the tournament's best team.
As Messi evolved from the team's symbolic captain into a genuine leader, he led Argentina to the knockout stage as group winners. In the quarter-final, they created numerous chances, including a rebound header by Messi, but were repeatedly denied by Colombia's goalkeeper, and ultimately ended the match scoreless, leading to a 5–4 penalty shootout in their favour, with Messi netting his team's first spot kick. At the semi-final stage, Messi excelled as playmaker as he provided three assists and helped create three more goals in his side's 6–1 victory over Paraguay, receiving applause from the initially hostile crowd. Argentina started the final as the odds-on title favourites, but were defeated by Chile 4–1 in a penalty shootout after an 0–0 extra-time draw. Faced with aggression from opposing players, including taking a boot to the midriff, Messi played below his standards, though he was the only Argentine to successfully convert his penalty. At the close of the tournament, he was reportedly selected to receive the Most Valuable Player award but rejected the honour. As Argentina continued a trophy drought that began in 1993, the World Cup and Copa América defeats again brought intense criticism for Messi from Argentine media and fans.
As the Messi family had relatives in Catalonia, they sought to arrange a trial with Barcelona in September 2000. First team director Charly Rexach immediately wanted to sign him, but the board of directors hesitated; at the time it was highly unusual for European clubs to sign foreign players of such a young age. On 14 December, an ultimatum was issued for Barcelona to prove their commitment, and Rexach, with no other paper at hand, offered a contract on a paper napkin. In February 2001, the family relocated to Barcelona, where they moved into an apartment near the club's stadium, Camp Nou. During his first year in Spain, Messi rarely played with the Infantiles due to a transfer conflict with Newell's; as a foreigner, he could only be fielded in friendlies and the Catalan league. Without football, he struggled to integrate into the team; already reserved by nature, he was so quiet that his teammates initially believed he was mute. At home, he suffered from homesickness after his mother moved back to Rosario with his brothers and little sister, María Sol, while he stayed in Barcelona with his father.
After a year at Barcelona's youth academy, La Masia, Messi was finally enrolled in the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) in February 2002. Now playing in all competitions, he befriended his teammates, among whom were Cesc Fàbregas and Gerard Piqué. After completing his growth hormone treatment aged 14, Messi became an integral part of the "Baby Dream Team", Barcelona's greatest-ever youth side. During his first full season (2002–03), he was top scorer with 36 goals in 30 games for the Cadetes A, who won an unprecedented treble of the league and both the Spanish and Catalan cups. The Copa Catalunya final, a 4–1 victory over Espanyol, became known in club lore as the partido de la máscara, the final of the mask. A week after suffering a broken cheekbone during a league match, Messi was allowed to start the game on the condition that he wear a plastic protector; soon hindered by the mask, he took it off and scored two goals in 10 minutes before his substitution. At the close of the season, he received an offer to join Arsenal, his first from a foreign club, but while Fàbregas and Piqué soon left for England, he chose to remain in Barcelona.
At 16 years, four months, and 23 days old, Messi made his first team debut when he came on in the 75th minute during a friendly against José Mourinho's Porto on 16 November 2003. His performance, creating two chances and a shot on goal, impressed the technical staff, and he subsequently began training daily with the club's reserve side, Barcelona B, as well as weekly with the first team. After his first training session with the senior squad, Barça's new star player, Ronaldinho, told his teammates that he believed the 16-year-old would become an even better player than himself. Ronaldinho soon befriended Messi, whom he called "little brother", which greatly eased his transition into the first team.
As a dual Argentine-Spanish national, Messi was eligible to play for the national team of both countries. Selectors for Spain's Under-17 squad began pursuing him in 2003 after Barcelona's director of football, Carles Rexach, alerted the Royal Spanish Football Federation to their young player. Messi declined the offer, having aspired to represent La Albiceleste since childhood. To further prevent Spain from taking him, the Argentine Football Association organised two under-20 friendlies in June 2004, against Paraguay and Uruguay, with the purpose of finalising his status as an Argentina player in FIFA. Five days after his 17th birthday, on 29 June, he made his debut for his country against Paraguay, scoring once and providing two assists in their 8–0 victory. He was subsequently included in the squad for the South American Youth Championship, held in Colombia in February 2005. As he lacked the stamina of his teammates, the result of his former growth hormone deficiency, he was used as a substitute in six of the nine games. After being named man of the match against Venezuela, he scored the winning 2–1 goal in the crucial last match against Brazil, thereby securing their third-place qualification for the FIFA World Youth Championship.
To gain further match experience, Messi joined Barcelona C in addition to the Juveniles A, playing his first game for the third team on 29 November. He helped save them from the relegation zone of the Tercera División, scoring five goals in ten games, including a hat-trick in eight minutes during a Copa del Rey match while man-marked by Sevilla's Sergio Ramos. His progress was reflected in his first professional contract, signed on 4 February 2004, which lasted until 2012 and contained an initial buyout clause of €30 million. A month later, on 6 March, he made his debut for Barcelona B in the Segunda División B, and his buyout clause automatically increased to €80 million. He played five games with the B team that season but did not score. Physically he was weaker than his opponents, who were often much older and taller, and in training he worked on increasing his muscle mass and overall strength in order to be able to shake off defenders. Towards the end of the season, he returned to both youth teams, helping the Juveniles B win the league. He finished the campaign having scored for four of his five teams with a total of 36 goals in all official competitions.
During the 2004–05 season, Messi was a guaranteed starter for the B team, playing 17 games throughout the campaign and scoring on six occasions. Since his debut the previous November, he had not been called up to the first team again, but in October 2004, the senior players asked manager Frank Rijkaard to promote him. Since Ronaldinho already played on the left wing, Rijkaard moved Messi from his usual position onto the right flank (though initially against the player's wishes), allowing him to cut into the centre of the pitch and shoot with his dominant left foot. Messi made his league debut during the next match on 16 October, against Espanyol, coming on in the 82nd minute. At 17 years, three months, and 22 days old, he was at the time the youngest player to represent Barcelona in an official competition. As a substitute player, he played 77 minutes in nine matches for the first team that season, including his debut in the UEFA Champions League against Shakhtar Donetsk. He scored his first senior goal on 1 May 2005, against Albacete, from an assist by Ronaldinho, becoming – at that time – the youngest-ever scorer for the club. Barcelona, in their second season under Rijkaard, won the league for the first time in six years.
On 24 June 2005, his 18th birthday, Messi signed his first contract as a senior team player. It made him a Barcelona player until 2010, two years less than his previous contract, but his buyout clause increased to €150 million. His breakthrough came two months later, on 24 August, during the Joan Gamper Trophy, Barcelona's pre-season competition. A starter for the first time, he gave a well-received performance against Fabio Capello's Juventus, receiving an ovation from the Camp Nou. While Capello requested to loan Messi, a bid to buy him came from Inter Milan, who were willing to pay his €150 million buyout clause and triple his wages. According to then-president Joan Laporta, it was the only time the club faced a real risk of losing Messi, but he ultimately decided to stay. On 16 September, his contract was updated for the second time in three months and extended to 2014.
Due to issues regarding his legal status in the Royal Spanish Football Federation, Messi missed the start of La Liga, but on 26 September, he acquired Spanish citizenship and became eligible to play. Wearing the number 19 shirt, he gradually established himself as the first-choice right winger, forming an attacking trio with Ronaldinho and striker Samuel Eto'o. He was in the starting line-up in major matches like his first Clásico against rivals Real Madrid on 19 November, as well as Barcelona's away victory over Chelsea in the last 16 round of the Champions League. After he had scored 8 goals in 25 games, including his first in the Champions League, in a 5–0 win over Panathinaikos on 2 November 2005, his season ended prematurely during the return leg against Chelsea on 7 March 2006, when he suffered a torn hamstring. Messi worked to regain fitness in time for the Champions League final, but on 17 May, the day of the final, he was eventually ruled out. He was so disappointed that he did not celebrate his team's victory over Arsenal in Paris, something he later came to regret.
Aware of his physical limitations, Messi employed a personal trainer to increase his muscle mass, returning to the squad in an improved condition in time for the World Youth Championship, hosted by the Netherlands in June 2005. After he was left out of the starting line-up in their first match against the United States, a 1–0 defeat, the squad's senior players asked manager Francisco Ferraro to let Messi start, as they considered him their best player. After helping the team defeat Egypt and Germany to progress past the group stage, Messi proved decisive in the knockout phase as he scored their equaliser against Colombia, provided a goal and an assist against title favourites Spain, and scored their opening goal against reigning champions Brazil. Ahead of the final, he was awarded the Golden Ball as the best player of the tournament. He scored two penalties in their 2–1 victory over Nigeria, clinching Argentina's fifth championship and finishing the tournament as top scorer with 6 goals. His performances drew comparisons with compatriot Diego Maradona, who had led Argentina to the title in 1979.
In recognition of his achievements with the under-20 side, senior manager José Pékerman gave Messi his first call-up for a friendly against Hungary on 17 August 2005. Aged 18, Messi made his senior debut for Argentina in the Ferenc Puskás Stadium when he came on in the 63rd minute, only to be sent off after two minutes for a perceived foul against Vilmos Vanczák, who had grabbed his shirt; Messi had struck the defender with his arm while trying to shake him off, which the referee interpreted as an intentional elbowing, a contentious decision. Messi was reportedly found weeping in the dressing room after his sending-off. He returned to the team on 3 September in their World Cup qualifier defeat to Paraguay, which he had declared his "re-debut" ahead of the match. Messi started his first game in the next qualifying match against Peru, in which he was able to win a crucial penalty that secured their victory. After the match, Pékerman described him as "a jewel". He subsequently made regular appearances for the team ahead of Argentina's participation in the 2006 FIFA World Cup, scoring his first goal in a friendly against Croatia on 1 March 2006. A hamstring injury sustained a week later jeopardised his presence in the World Cup, but he was nevertheless selected for Pékerman's squad and regained fitness in time for the start of the tournament.
While Barcelona began a gradual decline, the 19-year-old Messi established himself as one of the best players in the world during the 2006–07 campaign. Already an idol to the culés, the club's supporters, he scored 17 goals in 36 games across all competitions. However, he continued to be plagued by major injuries; a metatarsal fracture sustained on 12 November 2006 kept him out of action for three months. He recovered in time for the last 16 round of the Champions League against Liverpool, but was effectively marked out of the game; Barcelona, the reigning champions, were out of the competition. In the league, his goal contribution increased towards the end of the season; 11 of his 14 goals came from the last 13 games. On 10 March 2007, he scored his first hat-trick in a Clásico, the first player to do so in 12 years, equalising after each goal by Real Madrid to end the match in a 3–3 draw in injury time. His growing importance to the club was reflected in a new contract, signed that month, which greatly increased his wages.
After Ronaldinho lost form, Messi became Barça's new star player at only 20 years old, receiving the nickname "Messiah" from the Spanish media. His efforts in 2007 also earned him award recognition; journalists voted him the third-best player of the year for the 2007 Ballon d'Or, behind Kaká and runner-up Cristiano Ronaldo, while international managers and national team captains voted him second for the FIFA World Player of the Year award, again behind Kaká. Although he managed to score 16 goals during the 2007–08 campaign, the second half of his season was again marred by injuries after he suffered a torn hamstring on 15 December. He returned to score twice in their away victory against Celtic in the last 16 round of the Champions League, becoming the competition's top scorer at that point with six goals, but reinjured himself during the return leg on 4 March 2008. Rijkaard had fielded him despite warning from the medical staff, leading captain Carles Puyol to criticise the Spanish media for pressuring Messi to play every match. Barcelona finished the season without trophies, eliminated in the Champions League semi-finals by the eventual champions, Manchester United, and placed third in the league.
In addition to his work with UNICEF, Messi founded his own charitable organisation, the Leo Messi Foundation, which supports access to health care, education, and sport for children. It was established in 2007 following a visit Messi paid to a hospital for terminally ill children in Boston, an experience that resonated with him to the point that he decided to reinvest part of his earnings into society. Through his foundation, Messi has awarded research grants, financed medical training, and invested in the development of medical centres and projects in Argentina, Spain, and elsewhere in the world. In addition to his own fundraising activities, such as his global "Messi and Friends" football matches, his foundation receives financial support from various companies to which he has assigned his name in endorsement agreements, with Adidas as their main sponsor.
After two unsuccessful seasons, Barcelona were in need of an overhaul, leading to the departure of Rijkaard and Ronaldinho. Upon the latter's departure, Messi was given the number 10 shirt. He signed a new contract in July 2008 on an annual salary of €7.8 million, becoming the club's highest-paid player. Ahead of the new season, a major concern remained his frequent muscular injuries, which had left him side-lined for a total of eight months between 2006 and 2008. To combat the problem, the club implemented new training, nutrition, and lifestyle regimens, and assigned him a personal physiotherapist, who would travel with him during call-ups for the Argentina national team. As a result, Messi remained virtually injury-free during the next four years, allowing him to reach his full potential. Despite his injuries early in the year, his performances in 2008 saw him again voted runner-up for the Ballon d'Or and the FIFA World Player of the Year award, both times behind Cristiano Ronaldo.
From late 2008, the national team experienced a three-year period marked by poor performances. Under manager Diego Maradona, who had led Argentina to World Cup victory as a player, the team struggled to qualify for the 2010 World Cup, securing their place in the tournament only after defeating Uruguay 1–0 in their last qualifying match. Maradona was criticised for his strategic decisions, which included playing Messi out of his usual position. In eight qualifying matches under Maradona's stewardship, Messi scored only one goal, netting the opening goal in the first such match, a 4–0 victory over Venezuela. During that game, played on 28 March 2009, he wore Argentina's number 10 shirt for the first time, following the international retirement of Riquelme. Overall, Messi scored four goals in 18 appearances during the qualifying process. Ahead of the tournament, Maradona visited Messi in Barcelona to request his tactical input; Messi then outlined a 4–3–1–2 formation with himself playing behind the two strikers, a playmaking position known as the enganche in Argentine football, which had been his preferred position since childhood.
Since 2008, Messi has been in a relationship with Antonella Roccuzzo, a fellow native of Rosario. He has known Roccuzzo since he was five years old, as she is the cousin of his best friend since childhood, Lucas Scaglia, who is also a football player. After keeping their relationship private for a year, Messi first confirmed their romance in an interview in January 2009, before going public a month later during a carnival in Sitges after the Barcelona–Espanyol derby.
During his first season under Barcelona's new manager, former captain Pep Guardiola, Messi played mainly on the right wing, like he had under Rijkaard, though this time as a false winger with the freedom to cut inside and roam the centre. During the Clásico on 2 May 2009, however, he played for the first time as a false nine, positioned as a centre-forward but dropping deep into midfield to link up with Xavi and Andrés Iniesta. He assisted his side's first goal and scored twice to end the match in an emphatic 6–2 victory, the team's greatest-ever score at Real Madrid's Santiago Bernabéu Stadium. Returning to the wing, he played his first final since breaking into the first team on 13 May, scoring once and assisting a second goal as Barcelona defeated Athletic Bilbao 4–1 to win the Copa del Rey. With 23 league goals from Messi that season, Barcelona became La Liga champions three days later and achieved its fifth double.
Unsatisfied with his position on the right wing – with the club's summer acquisition Zlatan Ibrahimović occupying the central forward role – Messi resumed playing as a false nine in early 2010, beginning with a Champions League last 16-round match against VfB Stuttgart. After a first-leg draw, Barcelona won the second leg 4–0 with two goals and an assist from Messi. At that point, he effectively became the tactical focal point of Guardiola's team, and his goalscoring rate increased. Messi scored a total of 47 goals in all competitions that season, equaling Ronaldo's club record from the 1996–97 campaign. He scored all of his side's four goals in the Champions League quarter-final against Arsène Wenger's Arsenal on 6 April while becoming Barcelona's all-time top scorer in the competition. Although Barcelona were eliminated in the Champions League semi-finals by the eventual champions, Inter Milan, Messi finished the season as top scorer (with 8 goals) for the second consecutive year. As the league's top scorer with 34 goals (again tying Ronaldo's record), he helped Barcelona win a second consecutive La Liga trophy with only a single defeat.
Messi secured Barcelona's first trophy of the 2010–11 campaign, the Supercopa de España, by scoring a hat-trick in his side's second-leg 4–0 victory over Sevilla, after a first-leg defeat. Assuming a playmaking role, he was again instrumental in a Clásico on 29 November 2010, the first with José Mourinho in charge of Real Madrid, as Barcelona defeated their rivals 5–0. Messi helped the team achieve 16 consecutive league victories, a record in Spanish football, concluding with another hat-trick against Atlético Madrid on 5 February 2011. His club performances in 2010 earned him the inaugural FIFA Ballon d'Or, an amalgamation of the Ballon d'Or and the FIFA World Player of the Year award, though his win was met with some criticism due to his lack of success with Argentina at the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Under the award's old format, he would have placed just outside the top three, owing his win to the votes from the international coaches and captains.
In addition to his salary and bonuses, much of his income derives from endorsements; SportsPro has consequently cited him as one of the world's most marketable athletes every year since their research began in 2010. His main sponsor since 2006 is the sportswear company Adidas. As Barcelona's leading youth prospect, he had been signed with Nike since age 14, but transferred to Adidas after they successfully challenged their rival's claim to his image rights in court. Over time, Messi established himself as their leading brand endorser; from 2008, he had a long-running signature collection of Adidas F50 boots, and in 2015, he became the first footballer to receive his own sub-brand of Adidas boots, the Adidas Messi. Since 2017, Messi has worn the latest version of the Adidas Nemeziz. In 2015, a Barcelona jersey with Messi's name and number (Messi, 10) was the best-selling replica jersey worldwide.
Throughout his career, Messi has been involved in charitable efforts aimed at vulnerable children, a commitment that stems in part from the medical difficulties he faced in his own childhood. Since 2004, he has contributed his time and finances to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), an organisation with which Barcelona also have a strong association. Messi has served as a UNICEF goodwill ambassador since his appointment in March 2010, completing his first field mission for the organisation four months later as he travelled to Haiti to bring public awareness to the plight of the country's children in the wake of the recent earthquake. He has since participated in UNICEF campaigns targeting HIV prevention, education, and the social inclusion of disabled children. To celebrate his son's first birthday, in November 2013, Messi and Thiago were part of a publicity campaign to raise awareness of mortality rates among disadvantaged children.
As Messi developed into a combination of a number 8 (a creator), a 9 (scorer), and a 10 (assistant), he scored an unprecedented 73 goals and provided 29 assists in all club competitions during the 2011–12 season, producing a hat-trick or more on 10 occasions. He began the campaign by helping Barcelona win both the Spanish and European Super Cups; in the Supercopa de España, he scored three times to achieve a 5–4 aggregate victory over Real Madrid, overtaking Raúl as the competition's all-time top scorer with eight goals. At the close of the year, on 18 December, he scored twice in the FIFA Club World Cup final, a 4–0 victory over Santos, earning the Golden Ball as the best player of the tournament, as he had done two years previously. For his efforts in 2011, he again received the FIFA Ballon d'Or, becoming only the fourth player in history to win the Ballon d'Or three times, after Johan Cruyff, Michel Platini, and Marco van Basten. Additionally, he won the inaugural UEFA Best Player in Europe Award, a revival of the old-style Ballon d'Or. By then, Messi was already widely considered one of the best footballers in history, alongside players like Diego Maradona and Pelé.
After Argentina's unsuccessful performance in the Copa América, Batista was replaced by Alejandro Sabella. Upon his appointment in August 2011, Sabella awarded the 24-year-old Messi the captaincy of the squad, in accord with then-captain Javier Mascherano. Reserved by nature, Messi went on to lead his squad by example as their best player, while Mascherano continued to fulfil the role of the team's on-field leader and motivator. In a further redesign of the team, Sabella dismissed Tevez and brought in players with whom Messi had won the World Youth Championship and Olympic Games. Now playing in a free role in an improving team, Messi ended his goal drought by scoring during their first World Cup qualifying match against Chile on 7 October, his first official goal for Argentina in two-and-a-half years.
Messi's global popularity and influence are well documented. He was among the Time 100, an annual list of the world's most influential people as published by Time, in 2011 and 2012. His fanbase on the social media website Facebook is among the largest of all public figures: within seven hours of its launch in April 2011, Messi's Facebook page had nearly seven million followers, and by August 2020 he had over 101 million followers, the second highest for a sportsperson after Cristiano Ronaldo. He has over 165 million Instagram followers, the second highest for a sportsperson after Cristiano Ronaldo. According to a 2014 survey by sports research firm Repucom in 15 international markets, Messi was familiar to 87% of respondents around the world, of whom 78% perceived him favourably, making him the second-most recognised player globally, behind Ronaldo, and the most likable of all contemporary players.
According to a genealogical research conducted by Diari Segre in 2011, Messi is a fourth cousin of former teammate Bojan Krkić. The finding had a very significant coverage in Spanish media: it was reported by all four major sports newspapers and by some of the largest general-interest newspapers, including ABC and La Vanguardia.
Under Sabella, Messi's goalscoring rate drastically increased; where he had scored only 17 goals in 61 matches under his previous managers, he scored 25 times in 32 appearances during the following three years. He netted a total of 12 goals in 9 games for Argentina in 2012, equalling the record held by Gabriel Batistuta for the most goals scored in a calendar year for their country. His first hat-trick with the Albicelestes came in a friendly against Switzerland on 29 February 2012, followed by two more hat-tricks over the next year-and-a-half in friendlies against Brazil and Guatemala. Messi then helped the team secure their place in the 2014 World Cup with a 5–2 victory over Paraguay on 10 September 2013; in addition to providing an assist, he scored twice from a penalty kick, taking his international tally to 37 goals to become Argentina's second-highest goalscorer behind Batistuta. Overall, he had scored a total of 10 goals in 14 matches during the qualifying campaign. Concurrently with his bettered performances, his relationship with his compatriots improved, as he gradually began to be perceived more favourably in Argentina.
Messi and Roccuzzo have three sons: Thiago (born 2012), Mateo (born 2015) and Ciro (born 2018). To celebrate his partner's first pregnancy, Messi placed the ball under his shirt after scoring in Argentina's 4–0 win against Ecuador on 2 June 2012, before confirming the pregnancy in an interview two weeks later. Thiago was born in Barcelona on 2 November 2012, with Messi attending the birth after being given permission by Barcelona to miss training. He announced his son's arrival on his Facebook page, writing, "Today I am the happiest man in the world, my son was born and thanks to God for this gift!" Thiago's name and handprints are tattooed on his left calf. In April 2015, Messi confirmed on Facebook that they were expecting another child. He missed training ahead of a match against Atlético Madrid to attend the birth of his second son, Mateo, on 11 September 2015 in Barcelona. On 30 June 2017, he married Roccuzzo at a luxury hotel named Hotel City Center in Rosario with about 260 guests attending his wedding. On 15 October 2017, his wife announced they were expecting their third child in an Instagram post, with the words "Family of 5". On 10 March 2018, Messi skipped the match against Málaga after Ciro was born.
Throughout his career, Messi has been compared with his compatriot Diego Maradona, due to their similar playing styles as diminutive, left-footed dribblers. Initially, he was merely one of many young Argentine players, including his boyhood idol Pablo Aimar, to receive the "New Maradona" moniker, but as his career progressed, Messi proved his similarity beyond all previous contenders, establishing himself as the greatest player Argentina had produced since Maradona. Jorge Valdano, who won the 1986 World Cup alongside Maradona, said in October 2013, "Messi is Maradona every day. For the last five years, Messi has been the Maradona of the World Cup in Mexico." César Menotti, who as manager orchestrated their 1978 World Cup victory, echoed this sentiment when he opined that Messi plays "at the level of the best Maradona". Other notable Argentines in the sport, such as Osvaldo Ardiles, Javier Zanetti, and Diego Simeone, have expressed their belief that Messi has overtaken Maradona as the best player in history.
According to France Football, Messi was the world's highest-paid footballer for five years out of six between 2009 and 2014; he was the first player to exceed the €40 million benchmark, with earnings of €41 million in 2013, and the €50–€60 million points, with income of €65 million in 2014. Messi was second on Forbes list of the world's highest-paid athletes (after Cristiano Ronaldo) with income of $81.4 million from his salary and endorsements in 2015–16. In 2018 he was the first player to exceed the €100m benchmark for a calendar year, with earnings of €126m ($154m) in combined income from salaries, bonuses and endorsements. Forbes ranked him the world's highest-paid athlete in 2019. Since 2008, he has been Barcelona's highest-paid player, receiving a salary that increased incrementally from €7.8 million to €13 million over the next five years. Signing a new Barcelona contract in 2017, he earns $667,000 per week in wages, and Barcelona also paid him $59.6 million as a signing on bonus. His buyout clause is set at $835 million (€700 million). In 2020, Messi became the second footballer (and second athlete in a team sport), after Cristiano Ronaldo, to surpass $1 billion in earnings during their careers.
Other events have illustrated Messi's presence in popular culture. A solid gold replica of his left foot, weighing 25 kg (55 lb) and valued at $5.25 million, went on sale in Japan in March 2013 to raise funds for victims of the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. A 2013 Turkish Airlines advertisement starring Messi, in which he engages in a selfie competition with then-Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant, was the most-watched ad on YouTube in the year of its release, receiving 137 million views, and was subsequently voted the best advertisement of the 2005–15 decade to commemorate YouTube's founding. World Press Photo selected "The Final Game", a photograph of Messi facing the World Cup trophy after Argentina's final defeat to Germany, as the best sports image of 2014. Messi, a documentary about his life by filmmaker Álex de la Iglesia, premiered at the Venice Film Festival in August 2014. Born in a zoo at Saransk, Mordovia, Russia in late 2015, Messi, a pet cougar who became popular on social media, was named after the player.
Messi has also invested in youth football in Argentina: he financially supports Sarmiento, a football club based in the Rosario neighbourhood where he was born, committing in 2013 to the refurbishment of their facilities and the installation of all-weather pitches, and funds the management of several youth players at Newell's Old Boys and rival club Rosario Central, as well as at River Plate and Boca Juniors in Buenos Aires. At Newell's Old Boys, his boyhood club, he funded the 2012 construction of a new gymnasium and a dormitory inside the club's stadium for their youth academy. His former youth coach at Newell's, Ernesto Vecchio, is employed by the Leo Messi Foundation as a talent scout for young players. On 7 June 2016, Messi won a libel case against La Razón newspaper and was awarded €65,000 in damages, which he donated to the charity Médecins Sans Frontières. Messi made a donation worth €1 million ($1.1 million) to fight the spread of coronavirus. This was split between Clinic Barcelona hospital in Barcelona, Spain and his native Argentina. In addition to this, Messi along with his fellow FC Barcelona teammates announced he will be taking a 70% cut in salaries during the coronavirus emergency, and contribute further to the club to provide fully to salaries of all the clubs employees.
Messi's financial affairs came under investigation in 2013 for suspected tax evasion. Offshore companies in tax havens Uruguay and Belize were used to evade €4.1 million in taxes related to sponsorship earnings between 2007 and 2009. An unrelated shell company in Panama set up in 2012 was subsequently identified as belonging to the Messis in the Panama Papers data leak. Messi, who pleaded ignorance of the alleged scheme, voluntarily paid arrears of €5.1 million in August 2013. On 6 July 2016, Messi and his father were both found guilty of tax fraud and were handed suspended 21-month prison sentences and respectively ordered to pay €1.7 million and €1.4 million in fines. Facing the judge, he said, "I just played football. I signed the contracts because I trusted my dad and the lawyers and we had decided that they would take charge of those things."
During the second half of the 2013–14 season, doubts persisted over Messi's form, leading to a perception among the culés that he was reserving himself for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Statistically, his contribution of goals, shots, and passes had dropped significantly compared to previous seasons. He still managed to break two longstanding records in a span of seven days: a hat-trick on 16 March against Osasuna saw him overtake Paulino Alcántara's 369 goals to become Barcelona's top goalscorer in all competitions including friendlies, while another hat-trick against Real Madrid on 23 March made him the all-time top scorer in El Clásico, ahead of the 18 goals scored by former Real Madrid player Alfredo Di Stéfano. Messi finished the campaign with his worst output in five seasons, though he still managed to score 41 goals in all competitions. For the first time in five years, Barcelona ended the season without a major trophy; they were defeated in the Copa del Rey final by Real Madrid and lost the league in the last game to Atlético Madrid, causing Messi to be booed by sections of fans at the Camp Nou. After prolonged speculation over his future with the club, Messi signed a new contract on 19 May 2014, only a year after his last contractual update; his salary increased to €20 million, or €36 million before taxes, the highest wage in the sport.
Another final appearance, the third of Messi's senior international career, followed in the 2015 Copa América, held in Chile. Under the stewardship of former Barcelona manager Gerardo Martino, Argentina entered the tournament as title contenders due to their second-place achievement at the World Cup. During the opening match against Paraguay, they were ahead two goals by half-time but lost their lead to end the match in a 2–2 draw; Messi had scored from a penalty kick, netting his only goal in the tournament. Following a 1–0 win against defending champions Uruguay, Messi earned his 100th cap for his country in the final group match, a 1–0 win over Jamaica, becoming only the fifth Argentine to achieve this milestone. In his 100 appearances, he had scored a total of 46 goals for Argentina, 22 of which came in official competitive matches.
On 11 January 2016, Messi won the FIFA Ballon d'Or for a record fifth time in his career. On 3 February, he scored a hat-trick in Barcelona's 7–0 win against Valencia in the first leg of the Copa del Rey semi-final at the Camp Nou. In a 6–1 home win against Celta Vigo in the league, Messi assisted Suárez from a penalty kick. Some saw it as "a touch of genius", while others criticised it as being disrespectful to the opponent. The Celta players never complained and their coach defended the penalty, stating, "Barca's forwards are very respectful." The penalty routine has been compared to that of Barça icon Johan Cruyff in 1982, who was battling lung cancer, leading many fans to indicate that the penalty was a tribute to him. Cruyff himself was "very happy" with the play, insisting "it was legal and entertaining".
On 17 February, Messi reached his 300th league goal in a 1–3 away win against Sporting de Gijón. A few days later, he scored both goals in Barcelona's 0–2 win against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium, in the first leg of the 2015–16 UEFA Champions League round of 16, with the second goal being Barcelona's 10,000th in official competitions. On 17 April, Messi ended a five-match scoring drought with his 500th senior career goal for club and country in Barcelona's 2–1 home loss to Valencia. Messi finished the 2015–16 season by setting up both goals in Barcelona's 2–0 extra time win over Sevilla in the 2016 Copa del Rey Final, at the Vicente Calderón Stadium, on 22 May 2016, as the club celebrated winning the domestic double for the second consecutive season. In total, Messi scored 41 goals and provided 23 assists, as Barcelona's attacking trio managed a Spanish record of 131 goals throughout the season, breaking the record they had set the previous season.
Messi opened the 2016–17 season by lifting the 2016 Supercopa de España as Barcelona's captain in the absence of the injured Andrés Iniesta; he set-up Munir's goal in a 2–0 away win over Sevilla in the first leg on 14 August, and subsequently scored and assisted in a 3–0 win in the return leg on 17 August. Three days later, he scored two goals and provided an assist to lead Barcelona to a 6–2 victory against Real Betis in the opening game of the 2016–17 La Liga season. On 13 September 2016, Messi scored his first hat-trick of the season in the opening game of the 2016–17 UEFA Champions League campaign against Celtic in a 7–0 victory; this was also Messi's sixth hat-trick in the Champions League, the most by any player. A week later, Messi sustained a groin injury in a 1–1 draw against Atlético Madrid and was ruled out with injury for three weeks. He marked his return with a goal, scoring three minutes after coming off the bench in a 4–0 home win over Deportivo de La Coruña, on 16 October. Three days after this, he netted his thirty-seventh club hat-trick as Barcelona defeated Manchester City 4–0. On 1 November, Messi scored his 54th Champions League group stage goal in Barcelona's 3–1 away loss to Manchester City, surpassing the previous record of 53 goals held by Raúl.
Messi finished the year with 51 goals, making him Europe's top scorer, one ahead of Zlatan Ibrahimović. After placing second in the 2016 Ballon d'Or, on 9 January 2017 Messi also finished in second place – behind Cristiano Ronaldo once again – in the 2016 Best FIFA Men's Player Award. On 11 January, Messi scored from a free-kick in Barcelona's 3–1 victory against Athletic Bilbao in the second leg of the round of 16 of the Copa del Rey, which enabled Barcelona to advance to the quarter-finals of the competition; with his 26th goal from a free-kick for Barcelona in all competitions, he equalled the club's all-time record, which had previously been set by Ronald Koeman. In his next league match, on 14 January, Messi scored in a 5–0 win against Las Palmas; with this goal, he equalled Raúl's record for the most number of teams scored against in La Liga (35).
Messi's place in Argentina's Copa América Centenario squad was initially put in jeopardy when he sustained a back injury in a 1–0 friendly win over Honduras in a pre-Copa América warm-up match on 27 May 2016. It was later reported that he had suffered a deep bruise in his lumbar region. He was later left on the bench in Argentina's 2–1 opening win over defending champions Chile on 6 June due to concerns regarding his fitness. Although Messi was declared match-fit for his nation's second group match against Panama on 10 June, Martino left him on the bench once again; he replaced Augusto Fernández in the 61st minute and subsequently scored a hat-trick in 19 minutes, also starting the play which led to Sergio Agüero's goal, as the match ended in a 5–0 victory, sealing Argentina's place in the quarter-finals of the competition; he was elected man of the match for his performance.
On 18 June 2016, in the quarter-final of the Copa América against Venezuela, Messi produced another man of the match performance, assisting two goals and scoring another in a 4–1 victory, which enabled him to equal Gabriel Batistuta's national record of 54 goals in official international matches. This record was broken three days later when Messi scored a free kick in a 4–0 semi-final win against hosts the United States; he also assisted two goals during the match as Argentina sealed a place in the final of the competition for a second consecutive year, and was named man of the match once again.
Just a week after Messi announced his international retirement, Argentine newspaper La Nación reported that he was reconsidering playing for Argentina at the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers in September. On 12 August, it was confirmed that Messi had reversed his decision to retire from international football, and he was included in the squad for the national team's upcoming 2018 World Cup qualifiers. On 1 September 2016, in his first game back, he scored in a 1–0 home win over Uruguay in a 2018 World Cup qualifier.
In November 2016, with the Argentine Football Association being run by a FIFA committee for emergency due to an economic crisis, it was reported that three of the national team's security staff told Messi that they had not received their salaries for six months. He stepped in and paid the salaries of the three members.
On 4 February 2017, Messi scored his 27th free-kick for Barcelona in a 3–0 home win over Athletic Bilbao in the league, overtaking Koeman as the club's all-time top-scorer from free-kicks. On 23 April, Messi scored twice in a 3–2 away win over Real Madrid. His game-winning goal in stoppage time was his 500th for Barcelona. His memorable celebration saw him taking off his Barcelona shirt and holding it up to incensed Real Madrid fans – with his name and number facing the crowd. On 27 May, Messi scored a goal and set up another for Paco Alcácer in the 2017 Copa del Rey Final, helping Barcelona to a 3–1 victory over Alavés, and was named Man of the Match. In total, Messi finished the 2016–17 season with 54 goals and 16 assists, while his 37 goals in La Liga saw him claim both the Pichichi and European Golden Boot Awards for the fourth time in his career.
On 28 March 2017, Messi was suspended for four international games for insulting an assistant referee in a game against Chile on 23 March 2017. He was also fined CHF 10,000. On 5 May 2017, Messi's four match ban as well as his 10,000 CHF fine was lifted by FIFA after Argentina Football Association appealed against his suspension, which meant he could now play Argentina's remaining World Cup Qualifiers. Argentina's place in the 2018 World Cup was in jeopardy going into their final qualifying match as they were sixth in their group, outside the five possible CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying spots, meaning they risked failing to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1970. On 10 October 2017, Messi led his country to World Cup qualification in scoring a hat-trick as Argentina came from behind to defeat Ecuador 3–1 away; Argentina had not defeated Ecuador in Quito since 2001. Messi's three goals saw him become the joint all-time leading scorer in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifiers with 21 goals, alongside Uruguay's Luis Suárez, overtaking the previous record which was held by compatriot Hernán Crespo.
On 18 October, in his 122nd European club appearance, Messi scored his 97th UEFA Champions League goal, and his 100th in all UEFA club competitions, in a 3–1 home victory over Olympiacos. Messi became only the second player after Cristiano Ronaldo to reach this century milestone, but accomplished it in 21 fewer appearances than the Portuguese counterpart. On 4 November, he made his 600th appearance for Barcelona in a 2–1 home win over Sevilla in La Liga. Following the reception of his fourth Golden Boot, Messi signed a new deal with Barcelona on 25 November, keeping him with the club through the 2020–21 season. His buyout clause was set at €700 million. On 7 January 2018, Messi made his 400th La Liga appearance with Barcelona in a 3–0 home win over Levante, marking the occasion with his 144th league assist and 365th league goal for the club, the latter of which saw him equal Gerd Müller's record for the most league goals scored for the same club in one of Europe's top five divisions. A week later, he broke the record, scoring his 366th La Liga goal from a free kick in a 4–2 away win against Real Sociedad.
On 4 March, he scored his 600th senior career goal from a free kick in a 1–0 home win over Atlético Madrid, in La Liga. On 14 March, Messi scored his 99th and 100th Champions League goals in a 3–0 home win over Chelsea, becoming only the second player after Cristiano Ronaldo to reach this landmark, in fewer appearances, at a younger age and having taken fewer shots than his Portuguese counterpart. His opening goal, which came after only two minutes and eight seconds, was also the fastest of his career, as Barcelona advanced to the quarter-finals of the competition for the eleventh consecutive season. On 7 April, he scored a hat-trick in a 3–1 win over Leganés including his sixth goal scored from a free-kick for the season, matching the record set by former teammate Ronaldinho. He once again finished the season as the top scorer in La Liga, with 34 goals, which also saw him win his fifth Golden Shoe award. On 21 April, Messi scored Barcelona's second goal – his 40th of the season – in a 5–0 win over Sevilla in the 2018 Copa del Rey Final, later also setting up Suárez's second goal; this was Barcelona's fourth consecutive title and their 30th overall. On 29 April, Messi scored a hat-trick in a 4–2 away win over Deportivo de La Coruña, which saw Barcelona claim their 25th league title. On 9 May, Messi scored as Barcelona defeated Villarreal 5–1 to set the longest unbeaten streak (43 games) in La Liga history.
With the departure of former captain Andrés Iniesta in May 2018, Messi was named the team's new captain for the following season. On 12 August 2018, he lifted his first title as Barcelona's captain, the Supercopa de España, following a 2–1 victory over Sevilla. On 19 August, Messi scored twice in helping Barcelona defeat Alavés 3–0 in their first La Liga match of the season, with his first goal, a free kick that he rolled under the jumping Alavés wall, making history in being Barcelona's 6000th goal in La Liga. On 18 September, Messi scored a hat-trick in a 4–0 home win over PSV Eindhoven in Barcelona's opening Champions League group stage match of the season, setting a new record for most hat-tricks in the competition, with eight. On 20 October, Messi scored and assisted in a 4–2 home win over Sevilla, but was later forced off in the 26th minute after falling awkwardly and injuring his right arm; tests later confirmed that he had fractured his radial bone, ruling him out for approximately three weeks. On 8 December, Messi scored two free kicks – his ninth and tenth goals from set pieces during the calendar year – in a 4–0 away win over Derbi barceloní rivals Espanyol in La Liga; this was the first time ever that he had managed such a feat in the league. His first goal was also his 10th league goal of the season, making him the first player ever to reach double figures in La Liga for 13 consecutive seasons.
Following on from their poor qualification campaign, salvaged by Messi, expectations were not high going into the 2018 World Cup, with the team, without an injured Messi, losing 6–1 to Spain in March 2018. Prior to Argentina's opener, there was speculation in the media over whether this would be Messi's final World Cup. In the team's opening group match against Iceland on 16 June, Messi missed a potential match-winning penalty in an eventual 1–1 draw. In Argentina's second game of the 2018 World Cup on 21 June, the team lost 3–0 to Croatia. Post match the Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli spoke of the lack of quality in the team surrounding Messi, "the reality of the Argentina squad clouds his [Messi's] brilliance". Messi had just 49 touches of the ball and only two inside the Croatia penalty area. Sampaoli stated, "we quite simply couldn't pass to him to help him generate the situations he is used to. We worked to give him the ball but the opponent also worked hard to prevent him from getting the ball. We lost that battle." Croatia midfielder Luka Modrić also stated post match, "Messi is an incredible player but he can't do everything alone."
Following the tournament, Messi stated that he would not participate in Argentina's friendlies against Guatemala and Colombia in September 2018, and commented that it would be unlikely that he would represent his nation for the remainder of the calendar year. Messi's absence from the national team and his continued failure to win a title with Argentina prompted speculation in the media that Messi might retire from international football once again. In March 2019, however, he was called up to the Argentina squad once again for the team's friendlies against Venezuela and Morocco later that month. He made his international return on 22 March, in a 3–1 friendly defeat to Venezuela, in Madrid.
On 13 January 2019, Messi scored his 400th La Liga goal in his 435th league appearance in a 3–0 home win over Eibar, becoming the first player ever to manage this tally in just one of Europe's top five leagues. On 2 February, Messi scored twice in a 2–2 draw against Valencia, with his first goal coming from the penalty spot, his 50th La Liga penalty goal; as such, he became only the third player in La Liga history after Cristiano Ronaldo and Hugo Sánchez to score 50 penalties in the competition. Later that month, the club admitted they had begun preparations for Messi's future retirement. On 23 February, Messi scored the 50th hat-trick of his career and also provided an assist for Suárez, as he helped Barcelona come from behind to achieve a 4–2 away victory over Sevilla in La Liga; the goal was also his 650th career goal for club and country at senior level. On 16 April, Messi scored twice in a 3–0 home victory over Manchester United in the second leg of the Champions League quarter-finals to give Barcelona a 4–0 aggregate win, which saw Barcelona progress to the semi-finals of the competition for the first time since 2015; these were also his first goals in the Champions League quarter-finals since 2013.
On 27 April, Messi came off the bench and scored the only goal in a 1–0 home win over Levante, which allowed Barcelona to clinch the league title; this was his 450th La Liga appearance, and his first league title as Barcelona's captain. On 1 May, Messi scored twice in a 3–0 home win over Liverpool in the first leg of the Champions League semi-finals; his second goal of the match, a 35-yard free kick, was the 600th senior club goal of his career, all of which had been scored with Barcelona. In the return leg six days later at Anfield, Barcelona suffered a 4–0 away defeat, which saw Liverpool advance to the final 4–3 on aggregate. On 19 May, in Barcelona's final La Liga match of the season, Messi scored twice in a 2–2 away draw against Eibar (his 49th and 50th goals of the season in all competitions), which saw him capture his sixth Pichichi Trophy as the league's top scorer, with 36 goals in 34 appearances; with six titles, he equalled Zarra as the player with the most top-scorer awards in La Liga. He also captured his sixth Golden Shoe award, and a record third consecutive award since the 2016–17 season. On 25 May, Messi scored his final goal of the season in a 2–1 defeat to Valencia in the 2019 Copa del Rey Final.
On 5 August 2019, it was announced that Messi would miss Barcelona's US tour after sustaining a right calf injury. On 19 August, Messi's chipped goal from the edge of the box against Real Betis was nominated for the 2019 FIFA Puskás Award. Later that month, he suffered another setback following the return of his calf injury, which ruled him out of the opening game of the season; as a result, he was sidelined indefinitely, and was only expected to return to action with Barcelona after the September international break. On 2 September, Messi was shortlisted as one of the three finalists for both the 2019 FIFA Puskás Award and the 2019 Best FIFA Men's Player Award, with Messi winning the latter on 23 September.
On 21 May 2019, Messi was included in Lionel Scaloni's final 23-man Argentina squad for the 2019 Copa América. In Argentina's second group match of the tournament on 19 June, Messi scored the equalising goal from the penalty spot in a 1–1 draw against Paraguay. After coming under criticism in the media over his performance following Argentina's 2–0 victory over Venezuela in the quarter-finals at the Maracanã Stadium on 28 June, Messi commented that it had not been his best Copa América, while also criticising the poor quality of the pitches. Following Argentina's 2–0 defeat to hosts Brazil in the semi-finals on 2 July, Messi was critical of the refereeing during the match. In the third-place match against Chile on 6 July, Messi set-up Agüero's opening goal from a free kick in an eventual 2–1 win, to help Argentina capture the bronze medal; however, he was sent off along with Gary Medel in the 37th minute of play, after being involved in an altercation with the Chilean. Following the match, Messi refused to collect his medal, and implied in a post-match interview that his comments following the semi-final led to his sending off. Messi later issued an apology for his comments, but was fined $1,500 and was handed a one-match ban by CONMEBOL, which ruled him out of Argentina's next World Cup qualifier. On 2 August, Messi was banned for three months from international football and was fined $50,000 by CONMEBOL for his comments against the referee's decisions; this ban meant he would miss Argentina's friendly matches against Chile, Mexico and Germany in September and October.
On 22 February 2020, Messi scored four goals in a 5–0 home win over Eibar in La Liga. On 14 June, in a 4–0 away win against Mallorca, Messi assisted twice and scored another, becoming the first player ever in La Liga to score 20 goals or more in 12 consecutive seasons. On 30 June, he scored a panenka in a 2–2 home draw against Atlético Madrid in La Liga, to reach his 700th goal in his senior career for Barcelona and Argentina. On 11 July, Messi provided his 20th assist of the league season for Arturo Vidal in a 1–0 away win over Real Valladolid, equalling Xavi's record of 20 assists in a single La Liga season from 2008 to 2009; with 22 goals, he also became only the second player ever, after Thierry Henry in the 2002–03 FA Premier League season with Arsenal (24 goals and 20 assists), to record at least 20 goals and 20 assists in a single league season in one of Europe's top–five leagues. Following his brace in a 5–0 away win against Alavés in the final match of the season on 20 May, Messi finished the season as both the top–scorer and top assist provider in La Liga, with 25 goals and 21 assists respectively, which saw him win his record seventh Pichichi trophy, overtaking Zarra; however, Barcelona missed out on the league title to Real Madrid. On 9 August, in the Champions League round of 16 second leg versus Napoli at the Camp Nou, Messi scored the second goal and earned a penalty which led to a third goal and led his side to a 3–1 home victory and qualified 4–2 on aggregate for the quarter-finals against Bayern Munich. On 15 August, Messi suffered his worst defeat as a player as Bayern Munich beat Barcelona 8–2 in a one-off tie in Lisbon, leading to another disappointing exit from the Champions League.
Following growing dissatisfaction with the direction of Barcelona on and off the field, Barcelona announced that Messi sent the club "a document expressing his desire to leave" on 25 August 2020. The announcement garnered a significant media response, including from current and former teammates (who supported Messi's statement) and Catalonian president Quim Torra. On August 26, Barcelona's sporting director Ramon Planes iterated the club's desire to "build a team around the most important player in the world" and affirmed Messi will only be able to leave should a buyer pay his €700 million buyout clause; a reported early termination option available in Messi's contract (which would have allowed him to leave the club for free) could only be exercised if he had communicated his decision to Barcelona by 31 May 2020, although the player's representatives argued the deadline should be set to 31 August, due to the adjourned 2019–20 season. On 30 August, La Liga issued a statement stating Messi's contract and buyout clause are still active.
On 10 September 2020, Argentina FA announced that Messi's one match suspension was lifted and he would be available to play the qualifiers next month. On 18 September, Messi was called up to the Argentina squad for the World Cup qualifiers against Ecuador and Bolivia in October.
Currently, Lionel Messi is 34 years, 1 months and 0 days old. Lionel Messi will celebrate 35th birthday on a Friday 24th of June 2022.
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