Does messi play for argentina ? There’s not a single football team in the world which wouldn’t want to have Lionel Messi on its roster. After all, the Argentinian, a record seven-time Ballon d’Or winner, is one of the best players of all time.
However, over the course of his 19-year-long professional career, Lionel Messi has only graced three clubs, Spain’s FC Barcelona, France’s Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and USA’s Inter Miami. Messi only recently signed for US club Inter Miami and is yet to make his debut for the Major League Soccer (MLS) side.
Taking into account the two Argentinian youth clubs he played, Lionel Messi has only played for five clubs in his career – a number quite low for modern-day footballers who end up playing for several clubs over the course of their career.
Lionel Messi’s first team: Grandoli
Born in the city of Rosario, in Argentina’s Santa Fe province, Lionel Messi was introduced to football at an early age and used to play with his elder brothers and cousins growing up.
Lionel Messi joined his first club Grandoli, a local neighbourhood establishment near his house in Rosario, when he was five years old. Interestingly, Leo’s doting grandmother, Celia Olivera Cuccittini, had a big role to play behind the move.
“One of my brothers or cousins was playing and we used to go there (to the Grandoli club) every day. The ‘86 team’, a team one year older than me, was playing and they needed a player — so my grandmother told the coach ‘put him [Leo] in the team’,” Lionel Messi reminisced during an interview.
The coach, however, was concerned with Lionel Messi’s small physique at the time and was afraid that he might get hurt playing against boys one year senior to him.
But Leo’s grandmother was a persistent woman and eventually got her way.
“Apparently when I went in, I did some things. My grandmother came back and told him [the coach], ‘Buy him football boots, I’ll bring him to training next week’ – and that’s when I started. It was an amazing time,” Lionel Messi recalled.
Lionel Messi’s second club: Newell’s Old Boys
Lionel Messi spent four years developing at Grandoli before joining the youth setup of Newell’s Old Boys, one of Rosario’s biggest clubs which plays in the Argentine Primera Division.
While the circumstances of Messi’s departure from Grandoli were never documented, an Al Jazeera report later reported that Messi’s family fell out with the club officials. However, the move to Newell’s Old Boys made sense as it was a professional club and offered better infrastructure and opportunities.
Besides, Lionel Messi’s family supported Newell’s Old Boys, or the Nuls, and reportedly the football legend’s uncles and aunts gifted him a red and black jersey of the club on his first birthday. Both of Messi’s elder brothers had played youth-team football for the Nuls.
Soon after Lionel Messi joined the Nuls and was inducted into its youth setup, the young Lionel Messi became the talisman for the club’s batch of ‘87, meant for boys who were born in 1987.
The team, which became famous as the La Maquina del ’87 or The Machine of ’87, would go on to dominate what was called ‘baby football’ in Argentina – seven-a-side games children under 11 play in the country. La Maquina del ’87 remained unbeaten for three years.
Incidentally, Diego Maradona played for Newell’s Old Boys briefly in the 1993-94 season. The club claims that during the half-time of Maradona’s debut match for the Nuls, a six-year Lionel Messi performed tricks on the football ground.
During his time at Newell’s Old Boys, Lionel Messi was diagnosed with Growth Hormone Deficiency (GHD), a condition caused due to the body producing insufficient amounts of growth hormone, leading to impaired growth and development.
A rare disorder which affects only one in 10,000 children, treatment for GHD was expensive – way beyond what Messi’s family could afford. Despite his promise on the football field, Old Boys also shied away from the expenses.
It is rumoured that River Plate, Argentina’s biggest and most famous football club, was interested in signing Lionel Messi at the time but backed out because of the high expenses required to treat GHD.
Lionel Messi at Barcelona
In his time of need, in stepped Spanish giants Barcelona. The Catalan club had the resources to easily foot the bill for Lionel Messi’s treatment and their world-class youth setup also made the move an alluring prospect.
In 2000, at the age of 13, Lionel Messi joined Barcelona’s youth academy, the famed La Masia, and the rest is history. Charly Rexach, the then first team director of FCB, famously got Messi to sign his first contract with the club on a paper napkin.
Such was the Argentinian’s talent that he was fast-tracked to the senior team in only four years after playing briefly for Barca’s B and C teams.
Lionel Messi made his first team debut for Barcelona against FC Porto, then coached by Jose Mourinho, in a mid-season friendly at the Estadio do Dragao on November 16, 2003. The Portuguese team won the match 2-0 but Messi, 16 years, four months and 23 days old at the time, was impressive in his cameo after coming on as a substitute in the 75th minute.
Soon after, Lionel Messi signed his first-ever professional contract with Barcelona. Messi made his competitive debut in a La Liga match against Espanyol on October 16, 2004, coming on as an 82nd-minute substitute.
Just 17 years, three months and 22 days old at the time, Lionel Messi was the youngest player to play a competitive match for Barcelona back then. Soon, the Argentine established himself as a first-team player and took over the mantle of the club’s talisman from Brazilian icon Ronaldinho.
Lionel Messi would go on to play in 778 matches for Barcelona, scoring 672 goals – both club records – before his shock move to Paris Saint Germain in 2021.
During his time with the Catalan giants, Lionel Messi won 10 La Ligas and four UEFA Champions League titles. All of his seven Ballon d’Or awards also came for his exploits in a Barcelona shirt.
Lionel Messi’s shock move to PSG
Regarded as Mr Barcelona, it seemed inevitable that Lionel Messi would end his professional career at Camp Nou. However, the fairytale ending never came.
With Barca reportedly running into financial trouble, contract talks between the player and club stalled and Lionel Messi’s contract with the Catalans expired in 2021. On August 5, 2021, Barcelona conceded that it couldn’t offer Messi a new contract due to financial issues.
While several top teams were eager to rope in Messi, French outfit PSG won the race for Messi’s signature and signed him on a two-year contract till 2023, with the option to extend it for a further year.
Lionel Messi made his debut for PSG on August 29, coming on as a substitute in the second half of a 2–0 away win over Reims in Ligue 1. He won the 2021-22 and 2022-23 Ligue 1 titles with PSG before moving on.
Lionel Messi signs for Inter Miami
In June 2023, Lionel Messi signed for US club Inter Miami, making the Florida side his first professional club outside Europe.
With former Manchester United and Real Madrid star David Beckham as a co-owner and president, Inter Miami came into existence only in 2018 and is a new entry in the MLS roster. Inter Miami made its MLS debut only in 2020.
Incidentally, Messi’s former Argentina team-mate Gonzalo Higuain is the top-scorer for the Eastern Conference side with 29 goals.
Lionel Messi international team: Eligible to play for Spain and Italy
Argentine by birth, it’s natural Lionel Messi plays for the Argentina national football team. He has represented the Albicelestes in various age groups, winning the Olympic gold medal at Beijing 2008, the Copa America in 2021 and FIFA World Youth Championship in 2005.
Messi was also the star of the national team which finished runners-up at the FIFA World Cup 2014 in Brazil and is Argentina’s top goal scorer of all time.
However, things could have been very different if Lionel Messi had chosen to play for both Italy and Spain due to his Catalan and Italian ancestry.
While the Italian football federation never explored the option, the Spanish FA briefly played around with the idea at the insistence of Carles Rexach.
“I was asked informally if I wanted to play for Spain, but I always said that I wanted to play for my national team because I love Argentina and these are the only colours I want to wear. I was always an avid fan of the national team. I watched the games on television because I could never go to the grounds and watch them as a fan,” Lionel Messi said.
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