For many people around the world, soccer is not just a sport or a hobby they like to do on Sundays, but it’s a way of life, almost a religion to some countries. I was born in a country where soccer was a religion, in every neighborhood, small and big, people of all ages would be playing. In school, we had tournaments during lunches, and when we didn’t have a soccer ball, we would look for bottles in trash cans, fill them half way up with water and play a game of soccer. Soccer has always been a passion of mine, it has always brought me excitement and comfort. One of the best feelings soccer fans get is the feeling of nostalgia when walking by a field and smelling the freshly cut grass, and in that second you see yourself in a stadium filled with seventy thousand people screaming your name because you just scored the winning goal. Soccer has that special thing that has always connected people from different parts of the world, regardless of skin color, religion, or what language they speak, there is only one language on that field and it’s called “soccer”. Soccer has been a part of my life since I was four or five years old, I remember buying my first pair of soccer shoes, I still have them with me today. My cousins introduced me to their favorite team which became my favorite team, and to this day, every Saturday morning, I’m in front of the TV watching them. Growing up all the kids who were good at soccer were considered the cool kids, unfortunately for me, I wasn’t one of them, but I knew there was only one cool kid on this planet, and his name was Lionel Messi. Lionel Messi born June 24, 1987, was the youngest in the family. He lived with his father who worked as a steelworker in a factory, his mother, three siblings, and his grandmother. Coming from Argentina and from a football loving family, Leo immediately developed a passion for the sport from an early age, and always played with his siblings, but the biggest influencer was his grandmother, who took him to watch his brother’s games. According to Dan, Sheridan, at the age of four, Leo joined his first football team, a local club called Grandoli, he was coached by his father, and supported by all of his family members at every game. Having watched videos of him playing at just the age of four, you could already tell he had a natural gift of playing the game. Messi was absolutely dominating the game within one year of playing, every time the ball came to him he controlled it, started running, and dribbled past everyone that came in front of him, even his own teammates which he still does today. When Messi turned six he was scouted by the local professional football team Newell’s Old Boys, joining the youth team, he was the shortest player out of his teammates, but that didn’t stop little Messi from being the best player in the league, in his first game Messi scored four goals and led his team to a six to nothing win. Based on an article by Richard Fitzpatrick from Bleacher Report things were going great for Messi and the team, they went on to be undefeated for 3 and a half years, and Messi made history by becoming a part of Argentina’s most famous underage team,”La Maquina del ’87,” which translates to “The Machine team of ’87”. According to an article from Goal.com by Ezequiel Scher & Gaston, at the age of eleven, Messi stopped growing, so his parents took him to the doctors, and they discovered that he had a hormone deficiency which was stopping him from getting taller. Newell’s Old Boys helped as much as they could to help Messi, but a couple of years later the payments for the drugs became too heavy for the club so they had to stop. Fortunately for Messi, he was being scouted by FC Barcelona, they offered him a trial in Barcelona and offered to pay for his treatments if he got in. Leaving his mother and siblings behind, Messi and his father went to Barcelona. The team director of Barcelona Carles Rexach immediately wanted to sign Messi after seeing him play at his trial, and famously on December 14, 2000, Rexach couldn’t find paper, so he wrote up Messi’s contract on a paper napkin, Messi immediately signed and officially became a part of the world’s best youth team La Masia according to an article by Sid, Lowe from The Guardian. Before going into Messi’s youth years and getting his first professional contract at Barcelona, there are a few things you should know about Barcelona’s youth academy “La Masia”, it’s been the world’s best football academy for the last 30 years, developing players not just from Spain, but from all over the world. The academy took in players from the age of six till they turn 18 and graduate from La Masia, and only a few would get a professional contract and get promoted to the first team, and playing in front of ninety thousand people. According to SI.com, Messi’s rise to the first team was a bit quicker than a lot of his teammates, in fact at just seventeen years old, Messi became the youngest player ever to play for the first team. Messi started out with ‘Juveniles B’ but after just five games with the team, he was immediately promoted to ‘Juveniles A’ where he really started to make a name for himself, by scoring eighteen goals, and in the following year, he got promoted to Barcelona C. Unfortunately it was difficult to find information on him during his time in that year, all I could find was that in that year messi was cleared from his hormone deficiency and he scored 10 goals in five games, I’m sure he played more games than that but finding the stats from that year was difficult.Messi was just one step closer to achieving his dream of becoming a professional football player, at just sixteen years old Messi was already in his last year in La Masia, but halfway through his season for Barcelona B, he was called up by the first team for a friendly against Porto in Portugal, and played in the last few minutes of the game. Later in October Messi was called up by the first team again, and on October 16, 2004, Messi played his first official game for the club at just seventeen and three months old. Messi went back to Barcelona B, to finish his season. In the following season Messi trained with the first team and would get playing time here and there, and his first goal came on 1 May 2005. On his eighteenth birthday 24 June 2005 Messi signed his first professional contract as a first team player, and notably, his first contract was worth a stunning hundred and fifty million euros according to Sam Marsden from ESPN. At just the age of eighteen, Messi was playing alongside the world’s best player at the time Ronaldinho. Growing up I loved seeing them play together, they always created magic on the field, and it was something very special, and unique to see. In my opinion, Ronaldinho was the perfect mentor for Messi, as a teenager to have a player like Ronaldinho teach you the ways of the game is just amazing, and I’m sure that it had an effect on Leo. They played alongside each other for four years, and Ronaldinho did the best he could to make sure Messi stepped up and show the world what he has to offer. Ronaldinho will always be my absolute favorite player, he always played with a smile, I can’t remember a game where he wasn’t smiling. Having watched him play, he didn’t really like to play by the rules, he always did things on the field, you wouldn’t see other players even try, that’s probably why he was so happy all the time, and he definitely passed that on to Messi. Although there was an age gap of seven years between the two, Ronaldinho immediately became a big brother to Messi, even gave him a spot next to him in the changing room. Going back and watching old videos of them playing together, definitely brought back good memories. Messi always had his eyes on Ronaldinho, watching him, and paying attention to every move he made on the field. According to fcbarcelona.com in his first two seasons playing with Ronaldinho, Messi played 34 games and scored 9 goals, which was not bad for a young kid that was playing with one of the world’s best team at the time. In his last two years with Ronaldinho, Messi really flourished and made his name known, at just twenty years old Messi, was already better than Ronaldinho. He went on to score 33 goals in 76 games, he was becoming a regular starter for the team. After 6 years at the club and scoring only 9 goals in his last season Ronaldinho decided that it was time for him to move on and leave, but I don’t think anyone wanted him to leave, including myself, but he knew the club was going to be in good hands. It’s not always that one successful era is succeeded by another, but Messi went on to be an even greater player than Ronaldinho, and of course, a lot of that is owed to him. Before Ronaldinho left, Messi was wearing the number 19, and there was only one player Ronaldinho had in mind to take over his number 10 and be a successor and his name was Leo Messi.To this day, Messi is the only player to have won the Ballon D’or five times. The Ballon D’or is an award that is given to the best player of the season based on the player’s stats and awards won in that season, and the winner is picked by journalists, coaches, and captains by vote. Messi won his first award in the 2008/09 season, with no Ronaldinho by his side, Messi took over the number ten shirt and had one thing on his mind, and that was to lead his team to victory. The team won three major trophies that season, Messi scored thirty-eight goals in fifty-one games, which was a lot better than the year before. Messi’s first trophy of the season came by winning his first ever final with the team in the Copa Del Rey against Athletico Bilbao, which they won four to one, with Messi scoring a goal and providing an assist. A week later the team won the last game of the league’s season and were league champions. The last game of the season was the Champions League final in Rome against the legendary Manchester United. The Champions League is pretty much the World Cup but for clubs, and it is the most valuable cup a team can get. I remember that game vividly, we won two to nothing, Messi scored one of his most memorable goals ever that game, it was his first Champions League Final goal, a header goal that secured the win and Messi’s first ever Ballon D’or.Messi’s 2009/10 season was a little better than the previous one, he had a great season on a personal level. He led Barcelona in scoring, both in the league with 34 goals and in all competitions with 47 goals. After the team won the treble the previous year, expectations were high, they still managed a treble for the second year running, but it wasn’t a treble the team were hoping for, they won the UEFA Super Cup, Spanish league champions, and the Club World Cup which I happened to go to, the final was in Abu Dhabi, me and my cousins went to see them play, it was my first time seeing my favourite team play just a few meters away from me, and every time Messi touched the ball, everyone got on their feet in excitement to see what the little magician perform. Messi actually scored a last-minute goal during extra time, this time he didn’t use his head, but his chest and that goal was later called the ‘Chest of God’ and I was there to witness that. Of Course, that was enough to give Messi his second, back to back player of the year award. Messi’s 2010/11 season, was definitely one of his best seasons ever. Messi went on to score fifty-three goals in all competitions for the team, and twenty assists, he definitely delivered every time his team needed him, Barcelona went on to win the Spanish league title for the third time in a row, and won another Champions League final against the same team they played in their last final, Manchester United. Messi scored a goal, provided an assist and was named the final’s man of the match. It was in that season where Messi’s performances made him the best in the world and put him on the path of being an all-time great. The 2011/12 season was for sure a special one for Messi as an individual but not as a team. Messi had his best ever season, breaking records left and right, but although he had a great season individually, the team failed to win anything except two nonmajor trophies. Messi went on to finish his season with 73 goals, so although the team didn’t really win anything major, Messi’s individual stats were enough to give Messi his fourth straight Ballon D’or. For the next two seasons, Messi didn’t win the award, not because he had bad seasons, but because the team was unable to win any major trophies. According to Bundesligafanatic.com 2012 was definitely one of Messi’s best years as a player, he broke the record of most goals scored in a calendar year. In the first half of the year 2012, Messi was able to score fifty-three goals, getting closer to Pele’s seventy-two. Then in the second half of the year, Messi was able to beat Pele’s record of scoring seventy-two goals in a calendar year, and also went on to beat the holder of most goals scored in a calendar year Gerd Muller, who had eighty-five. Messi ended the year 2012 with ninety-one goals with both Barcelona and his national team Argentina. The last time Messi won the Ballon D’or was in the 2015/16 season, which was a successful season both individually and as a team. It was definitely a joy waking up at six in the morning to see Messi play that year. Messi went on to score forty-one goals in forty-one goals, I wouldn’t say it was his best season individually, but he led the team to another Champions League glory and ended the season with six major trophies, and according to Baldwin from reuters.com, became the first soccer player ever to win five ballon D’ors. Based on an article from Quartz by Kabir Chibber, I’ve found that Messi has broken over fifty records, Of Course, I will not be going into each one of his records, but instead will be mentioning the most notable ones of his career so far. Messi has the most FIFA Ballon D’or wins, also was the youngest player at 23 to win a Ballon D’or. He became the all-time scorer of the Spanish league with 349 goals, and also became FC Barcelona’s all-time scorer with 538 goals. He became Argentina’s all-time scorer in 2015. Of Course the holder of the world record for the most goals in a calendar year for club and country. Messi also has to this day, the most appearances in FIFA’s team of the year(12). He has won the most trophies(30) in Spain’s history which are 8 league titles, 7 Spanish Super Cups, 4 Champions Leagues, 5 Copas del Rey, 3 European Super Cups and 3 Club World Cups. In conclusion, Messi has definitely grown to be one of the best players the sport has ever seen. It must’ve been very difficult for him to leave his family behind at just the age of thirteen, but he had a dream in his mind, a dream every kid that played football had, which was to play in front of ninety thousand people, and feeling the vibration of the field when they sing your name. Messi worked hard and didn’t let his growth deficiency get in the way, he played with his heart every game, and in the end, he got his dream, and the world at his feet. Messi in my eyes is a masterpiece, he really is a gift from God. Having gone back and watched some of his old videos, it was like watching a video game, the way he played was just extraordinary and a joy to watch. He definitely is one of those people, where writing about him, or trying to describe how amazing Messi is just not enough, you have to watch him.