Lionel Messi: Player Profile

Messi On The Cusp Of Greatness

Personal information
Full name: Lionel Andrés Messi
Date of birth: 24 June 1987 (age 27)
Place of birth: Rosario, Santa Fe, Argentina
Height: 1.69 m (5 ft 7 in)
Playing position: Forward

Club information
Current team: Barcelona
Number: 10

Youth career
1995–2000 Newell's Old Boys
2000–2003 Barcelona

Senior career
2003–2004 Barcelona C 10 Appearances, 5 Goals
2004–2005 Barcelona B 22 Appearances, 6 Goals
2004–present Barcelona 425 Appearances, 354 Goals

National team
2004–2005 Argentina U20 18 Appearances, 14 Goals
2007–2008 Argentina U23 5 Appearances, 2 Goals

2005–present Argentina 92 Appearances, 42 Goals

Neymar left the World Cup on a stretcher, James Rodriguez in tears. Luis Suarez was thrown out in disgrace. Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney failed to sparkle and Zlatan stayed at home.

But Lionel Messi, arguably the biggest star of them all, is still standing, still sparkling and within one victory of cementing his status among the very best to have played the game.

Lionel Messi seems to be a man with a mission. With four goals in the World Cup to his name, Messi is Argentina's top goal scorer.

He also made the match winning assist against Switzerland during their Round-of-16 clash. Lionel Messi will be looking forward to follow the foot-steps of Diego Maradona and help Argentina win their third World Cup. With the entire nation's expectations on his shoulders, Messi will be playing under pressure against Germany.

This is Lionel Messi´s third act, his third World Cup, and there is no better time for him to ride off into the Brazilian sunset with the same cup that Diego Maradona raised 28 years ago, the last time Argentina won a world championship.

We can go on and on about Messi’s prodigious career thus far, a decade plus of accomplishment
after accomplishment. He has four consecutive Ballon D´Or trophies for being the world´s best player in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012, he has 354 goals and 21 titles with Barcelona and the 2008 Olympic gold medal with Argentina, his lone title with the national team.

Without ever approaching his unplayable best, the Barcelona forward drove Argentina a step closer to history, as they reached a first final since 1990.

After Argentina’s 1-0 win over Belgium in the quarter-finals his coach Alejandro Sabella said, "he was our water in the desert. When the terrain was dry, he, once again, gave us a chance to breathe fresh air."

On the day he won his 91st cap to draw level with Diego Maradona, the last Argentina No 10 to reach this stage of a World Cup, comparisons were understandable.

"It is not only about scoring goals, he draws three or four opponents towards him. He is a sign of hope for us, he endangers the opponent, the influence he has is decisive. We truly value him."

Gonzalo Higuain scored the only goal of Saturday’s quarter-final success against Belgium and Messi believes every member of Alejandro Sabella’s side deserves great credit.

Greats from yesteryear such as Pele, Johan Cruyff and Maradona made their names at the World Cup. So far it has been different for Messi.

In 2006 he was too young to make an impact. In 2010 he departed Cape Town in tears, with Argentina dismantled by a vibrant young German team.

The following year at the Copa America in Argentina the relationship between Messi and his home nation reached its lowest point. Argentina were knocked out on penalties by Uruguay; Messi was jeered by his own fans.

It was noted that he didn’t sing the anthem and those who questioned his allegiance claimed he didn’t know the words. Messi had become a global superstar thanks to Barcelona and Argentina were just a peripheral part of his story according to most Argentineans. Not now, however. Messi is clearly integral to Argentina.

From the moment he announced himself at this World Cup with his goal at the Maracana, to the last-minute winner against Iran, to the two goals that perplexed Nigeria and the run and pass that created the decisive goal against Switzerland, Messi has been at the heart of this team.

It is beginning to look a little like Messi and 10 others, just as the 1986 side was Maradona and the rest. He is surrounded by some fine players.

But what lifts this side from being merely good to being excellent is clearly the presence of one man, whose ability and experience is far above anyone else left at this World Cup.

The 2014 World Cup has been one of the most exciting international tournaments in decades. Teams have combined to score 159 goals (the record is 171), and the average number of goals per game is the highest since 1986. We’ve seen breakout stars like James Rodriguez score sensational goals, underdogs like Costa Rica emerge from the group stage, and games come down to penalty kicks.

Best of all, Lionel Messi is finally playing like the world’s greatest player in an Argentina shirt.
Over the last five years, the sport has belonged to Messi. He’s won four of the last five FIFA World Player of the Year awards, scored 86 goals in a calendar year in 2012, and led Barcelona to glory in La Liga, the Champions League, and every other competition available.

His greatness is almost immeasurable at club level, but for whatever reason, Messi hasn’t been able to translate his talents into international success until this summer. He scored a single goal in the previous two World Cups, and Argentina never made it past the quarter-finals.

For a player stuck in the shadow of the legendary Maradona, who led Argentina to the 1986 World Cup, Messi’s results were regarded as a failure. Until now.

Even if you don’t like Messi or Argentina, you have to admire him. With one more win, he could become the greatest player in Argentina’s history.

Argentina are into the semi-finals of the World Cup, but they might have a tough time advancing if Lionel Messi does not play his absolute best in the next two matches.

The South American squad came into the tournament known as having the best attack in the world. Not only was Messi expected to resume his elite scoring ability, but European club stars like Angel Di Maria, Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain are also capable of brilliant plays.

Unfortunately, fitness is starting to become a major problem for the talented squad. Aguero has missed the past two matches with leg injuries and Di Maria has a serious thigh injury.

Although there is still a chance that one or both players could start in the final, it is clear that they will be less than 100 percent in the contest.

As a result, Argentina will rely even more on Messi than usual in the final, but it will not be in the way he is normally used.

Through six matches in Brazil, the Barcelona star has scored four goals. The problem going forward is that Messi would have to do a lot more by himself, not relying on the passing ability of Di Maria or the extra attention from fellow goal-scorers.

We have certainly seen him be quite skilled at dribbling past opponents like against Marouane Fellaini of Belgium.

However, it is hard to consistently turn these into goals. Instead, Messi has to become more than just a scorer and use his footwork to start moves rather than finish them. With everyone keeping their eyes on him, he will have to find ways to also distribute to his teammates.

This is the type of impact he has to have in every match. When he gets the ball, he has to not only be looking at the net but also for teammates who will likely be open.

Messi finished with 11 assists this past league season at Barcelona, so he has shown the ability to be a distributor when he needs to be. This is one of those times, as Argentina need him to be more versatile than ever before.

Sitting and waiting for the ball to come to him before trying to finish is not going to work this time around. He has to become a bigger part of the attack and help his team in any way possible, even if that is not by scoring goals.