By Musa Sunusi Ahmad
The Argentine forward is a true superstar of the game and one of the most famous players on the planet, but here are some things you might not already know about him.
1. He has scored at least seven goals against every other LaLiga Santander team
All LaLiga teams naturally fear Messi when he comes up against them, with the No 10 having netted at least seven times against all 19 of the other sides currently in the top division. His favourite victim is Sevilla, against whom he has a whopping 37 goals in 38 appearances. Over his career, he has faced 40 different clubs in the Spanish top flight, with only three yet to concede against him: Cadiz, Murcia and Xerez.
2. He first played with fellow Barça captain Gerard Pique in 2000
Messi and his current Barcelona teammate Gerard Pique have spent most of their footballing lives together. They were both in the same team in Barcelona’s La Masia academy, along with Cesc Fàbregas – part of the so-called “generation of ‘87” and conquered almost every challenge in their path. It was clear from that early age that these players would go on to achieve great things and, although Pique spent time at Manchester United and Real Zaragoza before returning to Barcelona, they have both been in the Blaugrana first-team squad together since 2008, playing 471 matches together. Messi has only played more often alongside Sergio Busquets and Andrés Iniesta.
3. He pays tributes to his grandmother after every goal
The sight of Messi pointing towards the sky with both hands after scoring a goal has become an almost weekly occurrence in LaLiga but not many people know its meaning. It is in fact a tribute to Grandmother Celia, who Messi credits with sparking his interest in football and supporting him as he took his first steps in the game. Sadly, she passed away in 1998 and never saw him play at the top level, but his iconic celebration ensures that her spirit lives on.
4. He could have played for Spain at international level
Messi has represented Argentina throughout his international career, but he could have been wearing the red of Spain had he accepted an offer to join the national team of the country where he has spent his entire professional career. After spending his childhood in Barcelona, he was eligible to play for the 2010 world champions, but Messi says the idea never crossed his mind. The rest, as they say, is history as he has gone on to become Argentina’s all-time top scorer with 70 goals.
5. His footballing idol was Pablo Aimar
Many up-and-coming players consider Messi as a role model, but it’s easy to forget that he had an idol growing up too, just like any other aspiring footballer. His was fellow Argentina and former Valencia and Real Zaragoza playmaker Pablo Aimar. They faced each other in LaLiga on several occasions, including on one special night in 2004 when Aimar came up to the 17-year-old Messi, an unused sub on the night, after the game to offer him his shirt. He still treasures that jersey to this day.