Lionel Andrés Messi (Spanish pronunciation: [ljoˈnel anˈdɾes ˈmesi]; born 24 June 1987) is an Argentine footballer who currently plays for La Liga team Barcelona and the Argentine national team. Messi is considered to be one of the best football players of his generation, having received several Ballon d'Or and FIFA World Player of the Year nominations by the age of 21. His playing style and ability have drawn comparisons to football legend Diego Maradona, who himself declared Messi his "successor".
Messi began playing football at a young age and his potential was quickly identified by Barcelona. He left Rosario-based Newell's Old Boys's youth team in 2000 and moved with his family to Europe, as Barcelona offered treatment for his growth hormone deficiency. Making his debut in the 2004–05 season, he broke the La Liga record for the youngest footballer to play a league game, and also the youngest to score a league goal. Major honours soon followed as Barcelona won La Liga in Messi's debut season, and won a double of the league and UEFA Champions League in 2006. His breakthrough season was in 2006–07: he became a first team regular, scoring a hat-trick in El Clásico and finishing with 14 goals in 26 league games. Perhaps his most successful season was the 2008–09 season, in which Messi scored 38 goals to play an integral part in a treble winning campaign.
Messi was the top scorer with six goals, including two in the final game of the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship. Shortly thereafter, he became an established member of Argentina's senior international team. In 2006 he became the youngest Argentine to play in the FIFA World Cup and he won a runners-up medal at the Copa América tournament the following year. In 2008, in Beijing, he won his first international honour, an Olympic gold medal, with the Argentina Olympic football team