Lionel Messi Q&A: How old is the Barcelona star and is he better than Ronaldo?

Lionel Messi
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The Argentine is one of the most famous footballers ever but lives a very private life off the field and there is still plenty we don't know about him

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.

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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.


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.

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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 League.

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.


Lionel Messi

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 Batistuta.

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.


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 exploit.

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 midfield.


Lionel Messi

Messi is currently 29 years old. He was born on June 24, 1987, in Rosario, Argentina to father Jorge and mother Celia.


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 the time.

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.


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.

You can find a detailed account of his salary, endorsements and net worth, which is currently estimated at over £200 million, here.


Lionel Messi

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.


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.


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.

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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.


Lionel Messi

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.