Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi is the best player of his generation.
He has it all. He can dribble, shoot with both feet, has bags of assists and, despite his slight stature, isn’t too bad in the air. But it wasn’t a smooth road to becoming one of the greatest footballers of all time.
Born in Rosario, Argentina, Messi joined Newell’s Old Boys at the age of eight, having turned out for his local team in his earlier years.
Although freakishly talented, Messi suffered with a growth hormone deficiency. Lionel’s father was a factory worker and his mother a cleaner, and were unable to afford treatment for their son’s condition.
Despite interest from River Plate, Spanish giants Barcelona pounced for the 13-year-old Messi, and promised to pay $800 (USD) per month for the treatment, which would help him grow in stature and as a player.
Had Barcelona not made that decision, there’s no telling where they would be as a club, or whether Messi would have even made it as a player.
Under the stewardship of the Catalan club, Messi would hone his talents, and by the time he broke into the first team as a teenager, the footballing world had already heard rumours of the Argentine’s outstanding ability.
Messi shone in the club’s youth set-up, and would become the club’s youngest ever La Liga scorer, aged 17 years, 10 months and seven days, against Albacete.
Now 29, Messi is the club’s record scorer, has been the lynchpin in the attack since Pep Guardiola’s reign at the Nou Camp, and has won everything in club football multiple times.
Not bad for a tiny, working-class Argentinean kid.