Lionel Messi signed his first FC Barcelona contract on a paper napkin!
You know you’ve achieved world’s best player status when your hometown bans new parents from naming their babies after you! Lionel Messi’s home town of Rosario has warned soccer-loving mom and dads to-be that doing so is officially prohibited by law. The province’s civil registrar made the announcement after a father in another town proudly bestowed the surname of his idol on his newborn son! I guess the registrar feared having too many “Messi’s” running around would be confusing…
Not unless one of those namesakes grows up to be as good a soccer player as the man himself. Through hard work and fierce determination, facing every challenge Life has handed him with grace, courage and humility, Lionel Andre “Leo” Messi Cuccittini has rightfully earned the title of “Best Soccer Player in the World”.
The 27-year-old Argentinian footballer might have taken a different path.
At age 11, he was diagnosed with human growth deficiency. Though his talent on the field was already obvious, local teams were unwilling to pay for the $900 a month treatments that he needed. His father, a factory steel worker, and his mother, a part-time cleaner, could not afford the high medical costs themselves.
Through the help of relatives in Lleida, Catalonia, Messi was given the chance to try out for FC Barcelona. Sporting director Carles Rexach was so impressed with what he saw in the boy that he signed him on the spot – writing that first contract on a paper napkin! The team agreed to pay for all his medical treatments – on the condition that he and his Spaniard father move to Barcelona, Spain. Which they did.
The list of Lionel Messi’s professional accomplishments is more than impressive, it is inspiring:
- He was nominated for both the Ballon d’Or and FIFA World Player of the Year by the time he turned 21! He won those awards in 2009 – the very next year.
- In 2010 he claimed the inaugural FIFA Ballon d’Or title. And again in 2011, and 2012.
- The UEFA Best Player in Europe Award went to him in 2010-11.
- By 24, Messi was Barcelona’s all-time-top-scorer. 25? that’s when he became the youngest player ever to score 200 goals in the Spanish football league, La Liga.
And on and on it goes…World Cup Championships, Olympic Gold Medals! The 27-year-old has garnered accolades and awards and broken a lot more ground since those early days.
Today, most people consider him the Best Soccer Player in the World, and many more call him the Best Player Ever.
Messi has never let his celebrity get in the way of who he is or where he came from though: he keeps in touch (calling or texting daily!) with a small group of friends in Rosario, still owns his parents old house, and makes regular, frequent trips back to his home-town.
In fact – he has used his celebrity as a platform to give back. In 2007 he formed the Leo Messi Foundation to give children in need access to education and health-care. He even funded building a dormitory inside Newell’s Stadium in Rosario. And a new gym for the club – the club that wouldn’t sign him because of his heath issues when he was a child! The club in turn is planning to issue a lifetime membership to Lionel’s one-year-old son, Thiago!