REUTERS - Factbox on Barcelona and Argentina forward Lionel Messi who won the World Player of the Year award for the second time in a row on Monday.
Born June 24, 1987 in Rosario, Sante Fe, Argentina.
The 23-year-old is blessed with the same masterly ball control and burst of pace as the great Diego Maradona and his goal against Getafe in a King’s Cup match in 2007 was almost a replica of the former Argentina captain’s spectacular solo effort against England in the 1986 World Cup.
* Joined Barcelona as a 13-year-old in 2000 and shone in the youth ranks before then-coach Frank Rijkaard gave him his senior debut at the age of 16 in a friendly against Porto in 2003.
* Led Argentina to glory at the 2005 World Youth Championship in the Netherlands, scoring two penalties in a 2-1 final victory over Nigeria. Like Maradona, ended the tournament with the best player and top scorer trophies.
* Became a Spanish citizen in 2005.
* Made his debut for Argentina in a friendly against Hungary in August 2005, the same opponents Maradona made his debut against as a 16-year-old. Messi was sent off less than a minute after going on as a substitute for elbowing a defender who had pulled his shirt.
* A bureaucratic argument over whether he could be classed as a European Union player meant he did not represent Barcelona in a competitive game until 2005. He went on to score six goals in 17 appearances as the club won La Liga for the second year in a row.
* Faced a race against time to make the 2006 World Cup and played only a bit-part role in the tournament. Coach Jose Pekerman was heavily criticised for leaving him on the bench as Argentina were knocked out in the quarter-finals by hosts Germany after a penalty shootout.
* Led Argentina to the gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and came second in the 2008 FIFA World Player of the Year vote behind Portugal winger Cristiano Ronaldo who was then with Manchester United but is now at Real Madrid.
* In the 2009-10 season, Messi played an influential role in Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona side that won six trophies including the Champions League, La Liga and the World Club Cup.
* Part of the Argentina team coached by Diego Maradona which was dumped out of the 2010 World Cup, losing 4-0 to Germany in the quarter-finals. Messi failed to score and struggled to find his best form at the tournament in South Africa.
Writing by David Cutler and James Illingworth; editing by Ed Osmond. To query or comment on this story email firstname.lastname@example.org