423 goals and 160 assists from 514 games – that’s Lionel Messi for you. He has been with Spanish giants Barcelona FC since 2003 and featured in as many as 500 games for the club. How old can one imagine the Argentine superstar and Barca icon to be? For someone who has been around with the Blaugrana forever, Messi is shockingly not even 30!
On June 24 last Wednesday, the best player in the world celebrated his 28th birthday and what a year it has been for him! Barcelona achieved the treble – winners of the UEFA Champions League and domestic champions with the La Liga and Copa del Rey titles in the bag. None of this would have been possible without the magical feet of this messianic Argentine. Messi alone got 58 goals of the 175 goals scored by the Catalan giants in the 2014-15 season.
No other player has left such an indelible mark on Spanish club football as Messi has. Since the time he arrived at Barcelona in 2003, this sworn club loyalist has led the Blaugrana to seven La Liga titles (compare this to arch-rival Real Madrid’s four during the same period), 3 Copa del Rey and 6 Supercopa de Espana titles. He has helped the Catalans to four European crowns (UEFA Champions League titles) and 2 FIFA World Club titles. He has won the FIFA Ballon d’Or in 2010, 2011 and 2012, FIFA World Player of the Year in 2009 and so many laurels that are just hard to count.
In 2014 July, Messi came close to winning the World Cup in Brazil but lost out to a determined Germany 0-1. There are unfair comparisons made between him and compatriot Diego Maradona. Many have not put Messi on the same level as the former Argentine great, as the Barca champ has yet to win a title for his home country Argentina on an international level. Maradona had helped his country lift the World Cup in Mexico in 1986 and Argentina have not won a major international title since then. Maradona also transformed a very ordinary Italian club Napoli into 4 title winners in the Italian club seasons during the 80s. But that is where the comparison ends, because Messi outshines the diminutive Argentine statistically at all levels. Even his dribbling, passing, dead-ball skills and sense of the game can in no way be considered inferior to those of Maradona.
In fact, Messi seems to be getting better by the day. The 58 goals he scored this season is his 2nd highest personal tally in his 12-year association with Barcelona FC and just three short of that of his bitter rival Cristiano Ronaldo’s 61.
Messi’s birthday celebrations were made even sweeter with former England and Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand sending him a ‘happy birthday salute’. Now in Chile in the midst of the 2015 Copa America championship, he will lead Argentina into a tough quarter-final showdown with Colombia on June 26.
We salute this great Argentine on his birthday and pray he brings his first title for his country very soon. May he enthrall the world with his wizardry for years to come.