Lionel Messi’s Phenomenal Career

Lionel Messi is one of the greatest football (soccer) players ever. He has won countless individual accolades, broken many records, and won numerous trophies for club and national teams. Lionel Andrés Messi Cuccitini was born on June 24, 1987, to Jorge and Celia Messi. He was born and raised in Rosario, Argentina, the largest city in the central Argentine province of Santa Fe.

Early Life

Messi had been playing from an early age, and two things made him different from the rest of the kids his age—his small frame and captivating style of play. His talent was undeniable, but tragedy struck him. At the age of 11, he had been diagnosed with a growth hormone deficiency which required expensive treatment. A local soccer club, River Plate, wanted Messi but didn’t want to pay for treatment.

Luckily enough, FC Barcelona’s Youth Academy gave him a trial and were so impressed, that they made him sign his first contract on a napkin. He would rise through the ranks in the academy and make his debut in the 2004/2005 season and become the youngest player to score a league goal in LaLiga, which is the first division for professional football in Spain.

Early Professional Development

From 2004 to 2008, Messi would establish himself as a starter for FC Barcelona. He would continue to display his talent by developing and adapting to the style of professional football . He would win two LaLiga titles (2004-05, 2005-06) and one Champions League title (2005-06), as well as the Supercopa de Espana in 2006. Through 2004-2008, he scored 42 goals in all competitions for FC Barcelona. Messi was one of the best young players in the world, with his fantastic dribbling and quickness. The world was now seeing the rise of a superstar.

Young Superstar

Entering the two next seasons (2008-2010), Messi would have a breakout season, as well as the team. Under the new manager—Pep Guardiola, the team would become extremely dangerous. His playing style was labeled “Tiki-taka”, a combination of short passes and constant movement, with the goal of continuously having possession. Messi scored 85 goals in all competitions (La Liga, UEFA Champions League, and Copa del Rey) and assisted 31 times in all competitions (2008-2009).

These two years were Messi’s true breakout years, as he would help his team win the La Liga title twice, UEFA Champions League, Copa del Rey, Spanish Super Cup, UEFA Super Cup, and FIFA Club World Cup. A fantastic two years for Messi and his club. They would achieve the impossible by winning the sextuple, which means winning six competitions in a row—the first club at the time to ever do so.

Stepping away from FC Barcelona, for his national team, Argentina, he would also win the Beijing Olympic Games. Individually, Messi would be honored with two Ballon d'Or awards, one European Golden Shoe, one FIFA World Player, two MVPs by LaLiga, one Pichichi by Laliga, Champions League top scorer in both seasons (2008/2009, 2009,2010), and one Onze d'Or. In a span of two seasons, Messi was solidified as a superstar and the amazing displays were just starting.

Following the next two seasons (2010-2012), Messi and Barcelona would still have successful seasons under Pep Guardiola. While Messi’s continuous displays were amazing, the surrounding cast as also very good. They would win another UEFA Champions League, LaLiga title, Copa del Rey, two Spanish Super Cups, UEFA Super Cup, and FIFA Club World Cup. The team’s success was immensely impressive and admired by all the world.

Not only did they dominate every football competition, but they changed the way football teams played, with their captivating “Tiki-taka” style and the main man being none other than Lionel Messi at the helm of the teams' success. He would again put up amazing statistics for the team, scoring 126 goals from 2010 to 2012 as well as 53 assists. These numbers were seen as superhuman at the time, with only Cristiano Ronaldo being toe to toe with him throughout these past 4 years (2008-2012).

Individually, he would yet again win two more Ballon d'Or awards, another European Golden Shoe, two more Champions League Top Scorer awards, another Pichichi by LaLiga, two more LaLiga MVPs, and one Men's Player of the Year. As well as scoring 91 goals in a calendar year, which is still a world record to this day.

During these past four years (2008 to 2012), Pep Guardiola had changed Lionel Messi as a player. He was molded into the superstar that we would see for the past decade. History was made by these two, and Lionel Messi already had a career that only the best of the best could achieve, but this was just the beginning for him. After the 2011/2012 season, Pep Guardiola would end his coaching at FC Barcelona. The end of an amazing period of football dominance and the last time Messi would ever be coached by Pep Guardiola.

Difficult Period

Following the Pep Guardiola era, FC Barcelona would start their new season (2012/2013) as a shadow of their past selves from their previous season, as they would only win LaLiga. Despite the trophy slump, Messi would have 60 goals and 15 assists in all competitions. An impressive display from him, but Messi’s focus wasn't on his numerical stats, rather the team’s success. This season was not as successful as previous and following the 2013/2014 season, Messi and company would have a similar season as the last one, only winning the Spanish Super Cup. It was a very unsuccessful season in the eyes of many critics and for Messi himself.

He still continued to produce outstanding numbers, with 41 goals and 14 assists. Despite the club season being unsuccessful, Messi had another chance to win a trophy, The World Cup Trophy. The 2014 World Cup in Brazil would feature Messi and Argentina having an exceptional run throughout the competition as they would make it to the World Cup Final. This was Messi’s chance to finally solidify his amazing career and shut down critics which described him as only being successful with FC Barcelona and not with his national team. Despite the amazing run by Messi and Argentina, Argentina would lose 1-0 to Germany in the final. Messi would still win player of the tournament but was vividly crushed by the loss. A rough patch in Messi’s career, but nevertheless Messi revealed his desire to come back next season even stronger than before, and he would do just that.

New Beginnings

After a rough 2 years within the club and 3 managerial appointments, FC Barcelona would hire Luis Enrique. He would change the course of their season, and with Messi’s determination became an unstoppable force. FC Barcelona would win the La Liga title, UEFA Champions League and Copa del Rey, completing a domestic treble. Messi would have an outstanding season with 58 goals and 27 assists. A comeback that he desperately wanted after the heavy losses the previous season. He would also win the Ballon d'Or, LaLiga MVP, Men’s Player of The Year, as well as Copa América MVP, despite losing to Chile in the final. A very successful season and a resurgence in Messi’s career. This version of Messi was a molded superstar compared to his stardom from 2009 to 2011. He was more intelligent and had more experience which all tied into his success to bounce back from last season's (2013/2014) struggles.

Going onto next season (2015/2016), Messi would still have success, as FC Barcelona would win the Copa Del Rey, LaLiga title, Club World Cup and UEFA Super Cup. Complemented by 41 goals and 23 assists throughout the season. Regular numbers for Messi as his consistency was seen as abnormal in the football world. Following last season and this season (2014 - 2016), Messi would start a famous trio with Neymar Jr. and Luis Suarez, the three of them would combine for 364 goals in just 450 games, while barely playing around 3 seasons together. This trio was seen as one of the most dangerous attacking forces in all of football history, with Barcelona’s “Tiki-Taka'' style of play and dominance throughout 2014 to 2016. Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar Jr. also known as MSN, became a cemented part in Lionel Messi’s legacy.

The 2016/2017 season would be the last season where MSN would play together and FC Barcelona would not have as much success, despite Lionel Messi having 54 goals and 16 assists. They would only win the Copa Del Rey and Spanish Super Cup. This season was the last time Messi would ever play with Neymar Jr. and Luis Suarez together, this is seen as an unfortunate end to the MSN legacy as Neymar Jr. would have a surprising move to Paris Saint German. This would also lead to the end of Luis Enrique as after three years of being with the club, he would not come back to coach FC Barcelona. The Luis Enrique and MSN era would come to an end. This is where the struggles would begin for Messi and FC Barcelona.

Solo Struggles

From the 2017/2018 and 2020/2021 season, Messi would not have the same success with FC Barcelona. Messi would score 165 goals in 195 appearances, with 74 assists in that time. He would win two more LaLiga titles, two Copa del Rey’s and the Spanish Super Cup. In 2017/2018, Messi would lose to AS Roma in the Champions League after they made a comeback in the second leg of the quarter-finals. Following the next season they would also lose to another comeback, but this time by Liverpool who won 4-0 in the second leg of the Champions League semi-final. Within two years, Messi successfully failed to get through the UEFA Champions League competition by blowing leads in the second leg of a two legged tie. Obviously this is not Messi’s fault but rather the team itself.

During this time, the team was seen as extremely reliant on Lionel Messi, who was pushing towards 30 years old. Although Messi was still one of the best players in the world, it was clear he needed support to compete for competitions such as the UEFA Champions League. Messi would never win another UEFA Champions League to this day, and his last season with FC Barcelona would be in the 2020/2021 season.

The club was in economic difficulties and with Messi being the highest paid player in the club as well as his contract coming to an end. Messi would sadly leave the club and many view this as one of the lowest moments in FC Barcelona's time as the departure of Messi is heavily controversial. Staff issues, club president issues, and economic issues are just some of the reasons that Messi would no longer play for FC Barcelona. The end of an era for FC Barcelona and a new start for Messi.

Moving Onto a New Chapter

Despite the tragic end to Messi’s time at FC Barcelona. He would finally win something with the Argentina national team. While Messi’s success with FC Barcelona was undoubtedly astonishing, his success with Argentina was criticized constantly. After losing three major finals, including the World Cup and Copa America, Messi won the 2021 Copa America, beating Brazil in the final 1-0. Messi would have an amazing tournament, scoring 4 goals and assisting 5 times. He would also win the Copa America MVP, which was well deserved. After so much suffering with Argentina, the Copa America would bring clarity for Messi and Argentina and become a beautiful moment in Messi’s career with Argentina.

After departing from FC Barcelona, Messi would make an astonishing move to PSG. Teaming up with Kylian Mbappé and Neymar Jr. While many saw this move as a life-changing move and the beginning of a super team, the reality is that the super team never flourished and despite winning the Ligue 1 title last season and the French Super Cup this year. His time at PSG has been unsuccessful and criticized. He has scored 31 goals and 34 assists throughout the 2021/2022 and 2022/2023 season. He is currently still at PSG as they are about to end their domestic season and competing to win the Ligue 1 title.

The highlight of Messi’s career would come this past December. During the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, Argentina would enter the competition as heavy contenders to win it. Messi was in sublime form for Argentina, and the team was also in exceptional form. Despite losing to Saudi Arabia in the first game of the group stage, Messi and Argentina would go on to win the competition as they would beat France in penalties after an exceptional game. Messi was now a world champion and won the Golden Ball award for his performance’s just as he did eight years ago in Brazil but this time winning in the final. The greatest achievement in Messi’s career happening towards the end of his career, an ironic turn of events for Messi, considering the sun is setting on his amazing career. Messi is now 35 at PSG, and who knows how much longer he will be around to display his talent. We can only watch and enjoy him. He's truly one of the greatest players to ever play the game.