Lionel Messi Q&A: How old is the Barcelona star and is he better than Ronaldo?
Lionel Messi is perhaps the most famous footballer in the
world, and certainly the most successful – on an individual and
team basis – of his generation.
The Argentine lives a fairly quiet, private life off the field,
however, and there is still plenty we don’t know about him. To
help you learn a little more, we’ve answered the questions
you’re most often searching for regarding Barcelona’s star man.
WHAT TEAM DOES MESSI PLAY FOR?
Messi has played for Barcelona at club level for his entire
career. He agreed to move to Catalonia to join their academy –
La Masia – at age 13 after struggling to find an Argentine club
to pay for the treatment he required after being diagnosed with
growth hormone deficiency.
He made his first-team debut less than three years later at age
16, coming on as a substitute against Porto in a friendly, and
was handed his first league appearance from the bench against
Espanyol a year later. At the time, he was the youngest player
to feature for Barca in an official competition.
By the 2005-06 season he was signed to the first team and
playing fairly regularly, making 25 appearances overall during
that campaign. Three-and-a-half seasons after that, he was
named the best player in the world for the first time.
Messi has gone on to win that prize – first as the FIFA World
Player of the Year award and then as the Ballon d’Or – on five
occasions. He has helped Barcelona win eight league titles and
be crowned the best team in Europe four times in the Champions
In his best individual season in front of goal he netted 73
times in 60 games, and he has not failed to hit 40 in all
competitions since the 2008-09 campaign.
WHAT COUNTRY DOES MESSI PLAY FOR?
Messi represents Argentina at international level and has won
116 caps, scoring 57 goals. That places him third on the
all-time appearances list behind Javier Zanetti and Javier
Mascherano and top of the goals list ahead of Gabriel
He has been frustrated, however, in terms of silverware in
international football. Messi’s sole senior honour with
Argentina is a gold medal from the 2008 Olympic Games in
Beijing, and he suffered defeat in the 2014 World Cup final as
well as the 2007, 2015 and 2016 Copa America finals.
Messi is a dual Argentine-Spanish national and was eligible to
play for Spain as well as Argentina. He declined the advances
of Spain at Under-17 level, however, and the Argentine Football
Association even arranged a couple of Under-20
friendlies in order to tie down his allegiances.
WHAT POSITION DOES MESSI PLAY?
Messi is an attacking midfielder or forward. He has the skills
of a traditional ‘No.10’ like the man he has been most often
compared to, Diego Maradona, but has played in a few different
positions for Barcelona and Argentina.
For much of his career Messi has played on the right-hand side
of a front three in Barca’s 4-3-3 formation, where he is given
license to drift inside on to his favoured left foot.
Perhaps most famously, however, ex-Barca coach Pep Guardiola
created a new position for him during his time in charge at
Camp Nou – the false nine.
Guardiola wanted to play Messi through the middle but instead
of using him as a No.10, where he could be marked by a
defensive midfielder, he started him at centre forward. Messi
was then instructed – counter to the way a No.10 might be told
to make runs forward – to move backwards into the
space ‘in the hole’ that the traditional No.10 tries to
It was the perfect deployment of a sensational player and
created a problem it took opposition coaches years to solve:
who should mark Messi? If the centre-backs followed him, it
drew them out of position and left gaps for Barca’s wide
forwards, such as David Villa, to run into and exploit. But if
they didn’t they were essentially redundant, with no fixed
striker to mark, and Barca would have numerical superiority in
HOW OLD IS MESSI?
Messi is currently 29 years old. He was born on June 24, 1987,
in Rosario, Argentina to father Jorge and mother Celia.
HOW TALL IS MESSI?
Messi is 1.70m, or 5′ 7″ tall. He suffered from growth hormone
deficiency as a child and required expensive treatment, which
eventually led to his move to Barcelona. His first club in
Argentina, Newell’s Old Boys, initially agreed to help pay but
later pulled out and River Plate could not afford to contribute
and take Messi on due to an economic collapse in the country at
Messi and his family subsequently travelled to Barcelona for a
trial and eventually, the Blaugrana agreed to pay his medical
bills as a condition of signing him.
HOW MUCH DOES MESSI EARN?
Barcelona pay Messi a rumoured salary of £336,000 a week, but
he is currently negotiating a new deal and expected to receive
a pay rise to surpass Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale as the
highest-paid player in the world.
WHO IS MESSI’S WIFE?
Messi has been in a relationship with Antonella Roccuzzo since
2008, when he was 20. The two have known each other since Messi
was five years old and Roccuzzo is the cousin of footballer
Lucas Scaglia, his best friend since childhood.
Messi and Roccuzzo have two sons; Thiago, who was born in 2012,
and Mateo, born in 2015. In late 2016 it was rumoured the
couple planned to get married, but nothing has been confirmed.
HOW FAST IS MESSI?
According to AS, Messi has been clocked running at
32.5km/h – just slower than Cristiano Ronaldo’s best of
33.6km/h. The fastest ever is said to be Arjen Robben’s 37km/h
during the Netherlands’ World Cup game against Spain in 2014.
A study by Mexican club Pachuca, meanwhile, also had Messi at
32.5km/h and registered him as the ninth-fastest top-level
player in the world as a result. You can probably take these
numbers with a pinch of salt.
HOW MANY BALLONS D’OR HAS MESSI WON?
Messi has won the FIFA Ballon d’Or four times but has been
named the World Player of the Year on five occasions. The first
time he was named the world’s best, in 2009, he also won the
Ballon d’Or, but back then it was only for the European
Footballer of the Year rather than a global prize.
In effect, anyway, he has won five and is the only player in
history to do so. Cristiano Ronaldo has won the Ballon d’Or or
World Player of the Year award four times.
IS MESSI BETTER THAN RONALDO?
It’s the most frequently debated topic in football.
Often, the answer comes down to who happens to be in the better
vein of form at the time. It’s hard to argue that Ronaldo did
not have the better 2016 and was not a deserving winner of last
year’s Ballon d’Or.
Most of the evidence, however, falls in Messi’s favour. He has
been named the best player in the world five times to Ronaldo’s
four, has won more league titles (eight to four) and more
Champions Leagues (four to three). Messi has scored 505 goals
in 603 career games, while Ronaldo has scored 513 in 707
matches – and most would agree the Argentine is the more
creative player as well.
That does not account for the context, however, of their
respective rises to the top of world football. Whereas Messi
was groomed in the Barca academy and was almost a perfect fit
for the Catalans’ style of play from day one, Ronaldo has
worked to establish himself in Portugal, England and now Spain.
The Portuguese has not always had the benefit of teams that
click the way Barca do, more often than not, and has achieved a
remarkable level of consistency – scoring at least 50 goals in
the past six seasons straight – despite that.
Really, there is no definitive answer. It comes down to
personal preference as much as anything and the debate will go
on long into their respective retirements.