The day I stop enjoying playing football, I’ll leave football, said Lionel Andres Leo Messi in 2012. Now, four years later on June 28 at the Metlife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey the enjoyment for playing for his country Argentina appeared to have ended as he announced his decision to hang up his boots. This was soon after he failed to lead Albiceleste as Argentina are known failed to win Copa America Centenary tournament in USA losing for the second consecutive year to neighbour Chile with Messi failing to convert a penalty in the penalty shoot out.
Soon after the 29 year old Messi announced his decision, the social media went viral with even his famous countryman Diego Mardona asking him to reconsider his decision. Messi who was the third of the four children of Jorge Messi, a steel factory manager in Argentina, the father Jorge was of Italian and Spanish heritage and the mother was of Italian descent.
However, Lionel’s main source of inspiration was his maternal grandmother, Celia, who accompanied him to training and matches. Tragically, she died before his 11th birthday and that is why when he looks up at the sky after scoring goals is his tribute to this football loving grandmother. Suffering from growth hormone deficiency, so the family decided to move out of Argentina.
As the Messi family had relatives in Catalonia, they sought to arrange a trial with Barcelona in September 2000. First team director Charly Rexach immediately wanted to sign him, but the board of directors hesitated since it was highly unusual for European clubs to sign foreign players of such a young age. On 14 December, an ultimatum was issued for Barcelona to prove their commitment, and Rexach, with no other paper at hand, offered a contract on a paper napkin. In February 2001, the family relocated to Barcelona, where they moved into an apartment near the club’s stadium, Camp Nou. During his first year in Spain, Messi rarely played with the Infantiles due to a transfer conflict with his former team Newells Old Boys. As a foreigner, he could only be fielded in friendlies and the Catalan league. Without football, he struggled to integrate into the team. Being very quite and reserved his quietness made his team mates think that he was mute. At home, he suffered from homesickness after his mother moved back to Rosario with his brothers and little sister, MarÃa Sol, while he stayed in Barcelona with his father.
Messi enjoys a close relationship with his immediate family members, particularly his mother, Celia, whose face he has tattooed on his left shoulder. His professional affairs are largely run as a family business: his father, Jorge, has been his agent since he was 14, and his oldest brother, Rodrigo, handles his daily schedule and publicity. His mother and other brother, MatÃas, manage his charitable organisation, the Leo Messi Foundation, and take care of personal and professional matters in Rosario.
It was his mesmerizing performance on the field that led to his immense global popularity and influence. He was among the Time 100, an annual list of the world’s most influential people as published by Time, in 2011 and 2012. His fanbase on the social media website Facebook is among the largest of all public figures: within seven hours of its launch in April 2011, his Facebook page had nearly seven million followers, and by November 2013, he had become only the second sportsperson, after Cristiano Ronaldo, to amass over 50 million followers. According to a 2014 survey by sports research firm Repucom in 15 international markets, Messi was familiar to 87% of respondents around the world, of whom 78% perceived him favourably, making him the second-most recognized player globally, behind Ronaldo, and the most likeable of all contemporary players.
His popularity can be gauged by the fact that a solid gold replica of his left foot, weighing 25 kg (55 lb) and valued at $5.25 million, went on sale in Japan in March 2013 to raise funds for victims of the 2011 Thoku earthquake and tsunami. A 2013 Turkish Airlines advertisement starring Messi, in which he engages in a selfie competition with Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant, was the most-watched ad on YouTube in the year of its release, receiving 137 million views, and was subsequently voted the best advertisement of the 2005-15 decade to commemorate YouTube’s founding. World Press Photo selected “The Final Game”, a photograph of Messi facing the World Cup trophy after Argentina’s final defeat to Germany, as the best sports image of 2014.Messi, a documentary about his life by filmmaker Ãlex de la Iglesia, premiered at the Venice Film Festival in August 2014.
So, even though he did not win any trophy on the world stage for Argentina World Cup and Copa America but his performance for Barcelona has indeed made him a legend in football.