Lionel Messi’s career has been a stellar ascent, and shows no signs as yet of slowing down.
Born in Rosario in Argentina, he began playing football at a very young age. He made his debut with the first team in 2003 as a 16-year-old and a year later he broke FC Barcelona’s team record for youngest footballer to score a league goal, as well as winning the league with that outstanding team. Is breakthrough season was 2006-7, when he became first team regular, and in 2008-9 he scored 38 goals to play an integral part in the team’s triple-winning success.
Since Pep Guardiola took over as manager of Barcelona in 2008, Messi has become Barcelona’s all-time top scorer in all official club competitions – at the age of 25. He scored an astonishing 91 goals in the calendar year 2012 alone. He has also excelled on the international stage, playing for his national team. But all that was achieved via hard work, sacrifices, family break-ups and huge pressure.
Guillem Balague has had unprecedented access to Messi’s inner circle: his coaches, teammates, presidents and relatives, Joan Laporta, Sandro Rosell, Gerard ‘Tata’ Martino, Alejandro Sabella, Xavi Hernández, Andrés Iniesta, Carlos Bilardo, Pablo Zabaleta, Cesc Fàbregas, Juanjo Brau, Gerard Piqué, Javier Mascherano, Silvinho…In addition, Pep Guardiola has provided exclusive analysis of the player.
The result is an authoritative and compelling account of the mystery – and genius – that is Messi.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Guillem Balague is a key fixture in Sky Sports’ coverage of Spanish football, appearing regularly both on live match coverage and on the weekly round-up show, Revista de La Liga. He is also the UK Correspondent for AS, the Madrid-based Spanish sports newspaper and El Larguero, Spain’s most popular sports radio show, attracting some 1.5 million listeners. His work appears regularly in twentyfour7 magazine, Bleacher Report, and in Champions magazine, where he writes a regular column on international football. He wrote the bestselling A Season on the Brink, an insider’s account of Liverpool’s 2004-05 Champions’ League winning campaign, and the biography Pep Guardiola: Another Way of Winning, published in 2012.
‘He is a shining light sent by God. You know when someone says, “he will make it, he will”? He was a footballer from the day he was born,’
Claudia, Cintia Arellano’s mother
Lionel Messi. The child, the man, the immigrant, the footballer.
Messi is a force to be reckoned with. He’s also an enigma. He easily captured my attention just as Michael Jackson did when I first saw him perform. I’ve never thought about understanding Leo because I see shades of myself in him when it simmers down to personality traits.
‘Leo doesn’t need money, he doesn’t want beautiful things…he’s just looking for more success.’
I’ve always maintained that Messi is a genius. A footballing genius and I don’t care for science to explain why people aren’t born geniuses. God has blessed Messi with this football talent that not even he himself could comprehend. Geniuses still need to work on their craft and that’s why they’re never satisfied when something doesn’t work out in their favor. That’s why they’re such perfectionists. Once God has blessed you with a talent, you don’t take it for granted. You go out there and you add your own initiative to it. If it means that you have to practice, practice, practice, DO IT for we were meant to work to develop our God-given talent.
People considered geniuses no matter the field they’re in, preserve their childish traits well into their adulthood even when they become family men themselves. Geniuses also need to practice their craft and I think this is the reason why they seldom fall out of love with what they do because of that passionate drive within them.
Leo the student. Ronaldinho the teacher.
The first time I saw Leo play, I thought that the ball was stuck to his boot and I sat there thinking that the ball is Leo and Leo is the ball. They’re one. He was born to play football. No argument.
‘Leo left the house with a ball, lived with the ball, and slept with the ball. He only wanted the ball,’
When you read Leo’s journey, you’ll understand why he has instilled so much faith in his beloved FC Barcelona. Why they’re a love affair. A romance. He is also fiercely loyal to Argentina. Although he had to leave Argentina to seek a better life, he always carried the country in his heart and soul. Leo’s dream is to win a major trophy with his country and with the World Cup looming around the corner, this might just be his last chance to do so. He came close on a few occasions, but Argentina never seems to really live up to their potential in finals. I don’t think Leo needs any major trophy for he is already one of the greatest footballers of all time in my book.
Leo was born with a growth deficiency hormone, hence his small stature, but it didn’t stop him from chasing his dream and accomplishing more than he bargained for. He never let doubters have the last say. The author took me on a journey showing where Leo grew up in Rosario, an insight into his young school life (always with the ball), the attitude he had as a child, his passion, and his quiet personality. He was always the happiest in the company of family.
Leo has left such an impact on many people’s lives and he changed the face of history in the sport he loves so much. The book shows his (and his family) ups and downs. How he had to adapt to a new culture (Catalan) after leaving Argentina behind for better. On the day he debuted for FCB, the club that gave him everything, there was no looking back. History was made that day. He was only 17.
The author had not only taken me on Leo’s journey, but he also took me on the ups and downs I’ve suffered, enjoyed, cried and laughed with FC Barcelona. 2012. Tito. Abidal.
As I come to the end of this journey, I am reminded that family keeps us grounded. The family is the foundation and the key to our future success. Balague couldn’t have ended the book on a bittersweet note reminding us about Leo’s rite of passage from boy-genius to man (father):
And one day he will take Thiago to the park to play football. When he’s ten years old, Leo will be around 37.
And he will pass him the ball.
It’s now 2018 and Leo is a father of 3 beautiful boys: Thiago, Mateo, and Ciro (newborn). Football might be his love, but his family is his joy.
“I told her the day Leo stops playing, I think I will lose all excitement I have for the game and will stop watching it. I love everything about football and imagining that Leo will not play any more one day distresses me. I don’t even want to think about it.”
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
The interviews were sometimes confusing to follow. The author should have had a DVD or CD made to accommodate the book.
It’s a 5!
That was the question on everyone’s lips in Leo’s classroom at the Juan Mantovani Middle School. His school was situated in the district of Las Heras in the south of the Argentinian city of Rosario, close to his home. Leo had missed a week of school and, apart from brief illness, he rarely did that. His desk stood empty, and at playtime, when someone got the ball out, the game seemed even more confusing. There is not football pitch at the Juan Mantovani and there are always too many kids for the small, cramped playground. It did not encourage spacious, expansive games and, with Leo absent, even less so. It had been some days since he had been seen.
…… one coffee down due to unnecessary gibberish at times (I felt as if I was reading results about a conducted experiment sometimes).