Lionel Messi is arguably the greatest footballer to have graced the football pitch. The little magician has had one of the most celebrated and trophy-laden careers of all-time, despite having a bittersweet run with his home country Argentina.
Every great story has a start, which may or may not be great – but in the end it plays a pivotal part in how the story shapes.
This article will help you learn a few such things about Messi, which has played a part in shaping his career and as such, how we know Messi – the footballing phenomenon.
The growth hormone deficiency and a love for Coke!
We all know Messi was born in Rosario – a birthplace he shares with the legendary revolutionary Che Guevara.
Not only that, during his tender years he had a growth hormone deficiency which required expensive medication and many believe that it was Barcelona who paid for this treatment when he was signed by the Catalan giants in 2001.
However, contrary to popular belief his treatment was taken care of by the Argentinian social security.
Despite the growth hormone deficiency and all the brouhaha surrounding it, Messi was just 13 when he joined Barcelona and like any other teenager had a sweet spot for Cola drinks. His love for the aerated drinks was such that all the soda machines in La Masia had to be removed as the little genius was its most frequent customer.
The paper napkin that rewrote footballing history
Messi rewrote most of the footballing record books with his goal scoring exploits but it all started when Barcelona technical secretary Carles Rexach was mesmerized by the brilliance of the then 13-year-old Leo.
Rexach was so spellbound by what he had seen that due to lack of suitable paper, he decided to seal the deal on a piece of paper available instantaneously – in this case a paper napkin.
That paper napkin has been kept in a frame to preserve it for the ages as the mark of a new era in the history of a footballing dynasty, after all Barcelona are more than just a club!
Lionel Messi or Leonel Mecci?
Messi made a name for himself on the shores of Spain but his success reverberated across the Atlantic in his home nation of Argentina.
However, despite being the apple of Barcelona’s eye he was a new kid on the block and not everyone was aware of the presence of a diminutive genius, who would go on to be equally loved and hated by the South American nation.
When Messi received his first call up from the Argentine Football Association for the Under-20s national team, they were not sure what his name was – as he was the only player who plied his trade outside Argentina – and they issued the call up to one Leonel Mecci.
The unholy start for the divine one!
Messi made his debut for the senior Argentine national team on 17th August 2005 at the age of 18, when he came on as a 63rd-minute substitute for Lisandro Lopez in a friendly against Hungary.
It should have been the day we all look back and remember as the day Messi began his love story with La Albiceleste but it turned out to be anything but that.
In a debut which lasted 43 seconds, Messi came on and immediately found himself with the ball. He went on one of his trademark runs, which torments defenders in their sleep as they wake from it hoping to catch the great one but only managing to catch a glimpse instead – akin to how they are left in his wake as he bears down on goal.
Words become superfluous when you try to describe the genius that is Lionel Messi. And that is not just a case of me having a poor vocabulary, even dictionaries find it hard to catch up with the little maestro.
In February of 2013, Santillana – a dictionary in Spanish – saw a new adjective added to its books. INMESSIONATE.
The word was chosen by the then Argentine coach Alejandro Sabella in association with Pepsi and roughly means:
1. Perfect way to play football, an unlimited capacity for self-improvement.
2. Describes the best player of all time.
However, Messi is not the only footballer to have an entry in the dictionary apart from the record books. In 2012, Sweden honoured their greatest ever footballer – Zlatan Ibrahimovic – with an inclusion in the Swedish dictionary.
The word ‘Zlatanera’ is a verb and means – ‘to dominate’. Fitting!
The real reason why he stands alone on the side in all team pictures
Even the greats are also mortals and despite his outlandish footballing skills, there is a part of Messi that is still human.
Messi can always be seen on the left corner of any team picture standing arm in arm with his compatriots but with a slightly different stance.
The reason behind that is because of a latent inferiority complex, that the diminutive Argentine has had to suffer in his early years, when he was still the most gifted of the lot but had not yet conquered the footballing world.
By standing alone on one end of the picture, Messi does not need to bend his knees and his stance appears taller than that of his teammates, who bend their knees, to fit in for the perfect photograph.
It is these small things that remind us, that no matter how gifted or outlandish or phenomenal Messi might be, when all is said and done – Messi is all but a mere mortal!
We may know him as ‘La Pulga’ – ‘The Flea’ – but it is not necessarily a nickname that he loves, or likes to be addressed as. For it will always be a reminder for him of his small stature.