Scour the internet and the myriad of sports programs and you’re bound to encounter debates surrounding who is the best active player in international soccer — Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi. Who is the true G.O.A.T.?
While this discussion will inevitably continue well beyond both players’ lifetimes, learning more about two of the sport’s greatest icons will help us appreciate why we love them so much.
Since we’ve already revealed some interesting facts about the Portuguese superstar, let’s take a closer look at Messi. Check out the following “must-know” facts about the Argentine footballer.
Dedicates All Goals to Grandmother
If you follow Messi as closely as many soccer fans do, you’ve probably noticed the distinct way he celebrates after putting the ball into the back of the net.
Each time Messi scores, he directs his eyes to the heavens, lifts both his arms, and points upward, as if he was saying a quick prayer. These sweet gesture is how he dedicates all goals to his grandmother, Celia Olivera Cuccittini, who passed away in 1998.
Hired on a Napkin
In 2000, F. C. Barcelona scout Carles Rexach boarded a plane and flew to Rosario, Argentina, to see a 12-year-old Messi play soccer. As a former winger and manager, Rexach knew talent when he saw it.
After watching Messi steal the ball, carry it end to end, and guide it into the goal, Rexach knew he had to secure this young man’s future and put him in a Barcelona jersey. He was so excited, he wrote a contract on a paper napkin and hired Messi on the spot.
Red Card Debut
Messi made his debut with Argentina’s national team at the age of 18 during a match against Hungary. After entering the game as a substitute, Messi was in the middle of one of his famous mazy runs when Hungarian full back, Vilmos Vanczak, held his shirt.
As he was trying to shake Vanczak off, Messi struck his opponent in the face with an elbow. The referee immediately deemed the blow intentional and gave Messi a red card, disqualifying him from the game.
The controversial penalty had been the only red card of Messi’s career until he got into a scuffle with Chilean defender Gary Medel during a Copa America match in 2019.
While many superstars go on to marry their high school sweetheart, Messi took it one step further. He met his future wife, Antonella Roccuzzo, when he was just five years old.
She is the cousin of his childhood best friend, Lucas Scaglia. While they were too young to date at the time, Messi reportedly always had a crush on Roccuzzo. He knew deep down that he would eventually date her.
Being so enamored at such a young age, you’d think he would have shouted it from the rooftops once they became a couple. This was not the case, however, as no one knew the couple was together until Messi was 21.
The kindergarten soulmates were married in 2017 and have three children together: Thiago, Ciro Messi, and Mateo.
Million Dollar Gold Foot
In 2013, Japanese jeweler Ginza Tanaka unveiled a pure gold replica of Leo Messi’s left foot that weighed approximately 55 pounds. The piece of art sold for more than $5.2 million.
The golden foot was crafted to pay tribute to Messi’s world record season in which he scored 91 goals and won his fourth Ballon d’Or (Golden Ball). The proceeds were used to help the country rebuild following the devastating earthquake and tsunami.
For those who were unable to spend $5 million on a replica foot, a golden plate with the imprint of Messi’s left foot could be purchased for $94,500.