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article imageLionel Messi: from little flea to soccer planetary stardom

By Igor I. Solar     Jun 12, 2010 in Sports
Buenos Aires - The skillful striker of the Argentina national soccer team playing today against Nigeria has overcome physical limitations to become one of the highest ranking contemporary footballers and one of the all-time great exponents of the game.
Lionel Messi was born on June 24, 1987 in Rosario, Province of Santa Fe, Argentina. He started playing soccer at age 5 with a neighborhood football club run by his father. By the time he was 7 he was playing in the starting division of Newell’s Old Boys, a Rosario professional club.
Although very competent with the ball, young Lionel was short for his age, which earned him the nickname “la pulga” (the flea). Still, his technical conditions were evident and in 1998 he joined the lower divisions of River Plate, one of Buenos Aires’ most prestigious soccer clubs. However, medical tests showed that Lionel’s short stature was due to impaired bone development caused by a growth hormone deficiency. The boy required a high cost treatment which both River Plate and Newell’s refused to cover. His father, a worker at a metallurgical company, could hardly afford the costs of treatment.
Messi’s father decided to emigrate to Lleida, a small town near Barcelona, where the Messi family had relatives. In September 2000, he tried with Barcelona FC impressing Barcelona´s manager Carles Rexach. His abilities motivated Rexach into asking him to sign right away a symbolic contract on a napkin. Lionel joined Barcelona FC. The club also assumed all the cost of his growth hormone treatment. In September 2005, Lionel extended his contract with Barcelona FC until 2014 and signed a recession clause of 150 million Euros.
At age 23, Messi plays with the number 10 shirt for Barcelona and for the Argentina National Soccer team. So far in his career, he has scored close to 100 goals in official games and he is currently considered by many as the best soccer player in the world. Arsène Wenger, manager of English Premier League’s Arsenal, referring to Messi has said:
"He is the best player in the world by some distance. Once he's on the run, Messi is unstoppable."
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