Messi, Lionel Andrés

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Lionel Andrés Messi (lyonāl´ ändrās´ mā´sē), 1987–, Argentinian-Spanish soccer player, b. Rosario, Argentina. He showed great talent early, and his family moved to Spain in 2000 when the FC Barcelona team agreed to pay for growth-hormone deficiency treatments. Joining the junior squad at 13, Messi debuted with Barca's first division in 2004. Nicknamed "the Flea," the small (5 ft 7 in./1.7 m), left-footed striker has a low center of gravity for fine balance and possesses superb ball skills. His speed and agility make him an elusive runner and scorer, and his power and accuracy make him deadly in free kicks and corners. In the 2004–5 season he became the youngest player in La Liga (Spain's top division) and won his first championship. Playing for Argentina in the 2008 Olympics, he was instrumental to its gold medal. Widely acclaimed as the finest soccer player of his generation, Messi has won international soccer's Player of the Year award four times (2009–12) and is FC Barcelona's and La Liga's all-time leading scorer. In 2012 he set the record for most goals scored in a calendar year (91).