Date of birth : 24/06/1987
Position : Forward
Country : Argentina
Born and raised in central Argentina, Messi was diagnosed with a growth hormone deficiency as a child. At age 13, he relocated to Spain to join Barcelona, who agreed to pay for his medical treatment. After a fast progression through Barcelona's youth academy, Messi made his competitive debut aged 17 in October 2004. Despite being injury-prone during his early career, he established himself as an integral player for the club within the next three years, finishing 2007 as a finalist for both the Ballon d'Or and FIFA World Player of the Year award, a feat he repeated the following year. His first uninterrupted campaign came in the 2008–09 season, during which he helped Barcelona achieve the first treble in Spanish football. At 22 years old, Messi won the Ballon d'Or and FIFA World Player of the Year award by record voting margins.
Don't go, Leo! Messi can lead a new Argentina after World Cup failure
The Albiceleste captain left his future up in the air after his side's exit at Russia 2018, but he is needed now as much as ever by his national team
There was no international retirement this time. As Argentina crashed out of the World Cup in the last 16 on Saturday following a 4-3 defeat to France in Kazan, Lionel Messi stayed silent.
While Javier Mascherano announced after the game that he would be bringing his international career to an end at the age of 34 and it was confirmed that Lucas Biglia will do the same , but there was no news from the captain.
Messi finished the game against France with two assists, but he was stranded for much of the afternoon in areas of the pitch in which he has little influence, having been picked as a false nine and forced to drop deeper in a team with no focal point ahead of him.
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It was a sad and perhaps predictable end to a World Cup which never really got going for Argentina amid numerous problems for the Albiceleste, who leave with two defeats, a draw and only one win at Russia 2018 – a last-gasp victory over Nigeria.
"If things go badly, we will all have to disappear from the national team," Messi had said before the tournament. "It will be difficult because we have been together for many years. We have to think about this World Cup – and it could be the last."
Messi turned 31 last week and by the time the next World Cup comes around, he will be 35, with the tournament in Qatar set to take place in November and December instead of during the summer due to the extreme climate conditions in the west Asian country.
However, the Barcelona forward looks like the type of player who can adapt his game with age and drop deeper into more of a playmaking role, perhaps similar to how he set up Sergio Aguero for Argentina's late third goal on Saturday. Time will tell.
In any case, Messi perhaps wanted to avoid a of heat-of-the-moment decision like the one he took two years ago, when he announced his international retirement after missing a penalty as Argentina lost the Copa America Centenario final to Chile in the United States.
"It's a difficult moment to analyse," a distraught Messi said after that disappointment in East Rutherford. "The first thing that comes into my head is that it's over. For me the national team is over."
"It has been four finals. It was what I most wanted. It didn't work out. I think that's it. It's what I feel now, what I think. There is great sadness. I missed the penalty, that's it."
The pain of losing three consecutive finals (the World Cup in 2014 and two consecutive Copas America in 2015 and 2016, plus another continental crown in 2007), had proved too much. A couple of months later, though, he was back.
The Barca forward returned to the fold and led the Albiceleste through an inconsistent qualifying campaign for the World Cup which featured three different coaches: Gerardo Martino, Edgardo Bauza and finally, Jorge Sampaoli.
The latter was seen as the man to unlock Messi's brilliant best in an Argentina shirt and he made it an obsession, travelling constantly to Barcelona to watch his number 10 in action and speaking passionately of how he planned to find the conditions in which his main man would thrive.
On Saturday, however, he was still searching. “We have the best player in the world and we had to try to create collective situations to really use that player who can have many brilliant moments," he said.
“We tried many different tactics – surround him, create space for him ... we tried to use everything we had to allow him to do what he can do. Sometimes we managed it, sometimes we didn’t.”
Mostly, however, they did not and in the end, there was probably not enough time for Sampaoli to work with the players to find the way he really wanted to play. As Chile coach, he led a four-year process which culminated in winning the Copa America in 2015. With Argentina, he has had barely 13 months.
Despite all the criticism in his homeland, Sampaoli is a coach who is fond of a process and, given more time, he may yet be the right man to lead this team to better things in future – without the chaos and immediate pressure of a flailing qualification campaign and then the tournament hot on its heels.
With the World Cup gone now, there is time to work and time to build for the future, to shape a side in a fresh image. And ideally, Messi would be at the heart of it to lead a new generation.
The next World Cup may be four years away, but there is a Copa America in Brazil next summer and with it, a chance to finally claim that elusive trophy with Argentina's senior side.
When he reflects upon their campaign in Russia, Messi will realise that they were never close this time and that surely makes it much less painful than the narrow failures between 2014 and 2016.
Now there is a chance to think about a new Argentina and providing he wants to, Messi must form a pivotal part of it.
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