A Moment of Magic
The Story of Lionel Messi & Goal 600
Club goal number 600 arrived in the most unsurprising yet satisfying form on Wednesday. Lionel Messi’s set-piece strike in the Champions League Semi-final was a work of art, and it marked a milestone for an icon and a hero from humble beginnings. Here’s the story of Lionel Messi you might not know, from life's kickoff to Goal 600.
An old apartment in Rosario, Argentina was the childhood home to a short kid with health problems who would one day take over a planet. His father was a steel worker. His mother, a part-time cleaner. His home, a sore sight in an impoverished Argentinian town.
That’s where the legend of Leo first grew, while Leo himself did not.
At age 11, Messi was diagnosed with growth hormone deficiency (GHD), a rare condition that stunted his growth and required expensive medical treatments; treatments his family could not afford.
In short, Messi was… well, short.
Nevertheless, this long-haired, tiny, somewhat unremarkable kid soldiered onward. He was shy and passive, as height-challenged kids can sometimes be, but he loved soccer and grew his game beyond a measure he could grow himself.
In America, we track and over-analyze measurables like height, weight, speed, wingspan, vertical, and strength for just about every major professional sport. In soccer, height means very little. Speed is king, and Messi was both – speed and king.
Rumors of his footwork spread throughout Argentina. When the local club River Plate pursued Messi, they learned of his health issues and stayed away. Too much risk. Too little upside. They weren’t willing to pay for his medical bills or take on the challenge.
At 13, Messi’s father took him to visit family in Spain. More specifically, Catalonia. Upon his visit, a family member – with a Barcelona connection – made a phone call, and the rest is history. History that’s still hard to wrap our heads around.
It would be impossible to list his records and achievements at the highest stage of world futbol, and that’s because he owns just about all of them. If there’s a record he doesn’t own, he shares it with Cristiano Ronaldo, an icon in his own right with three years on Leo in age.
As Wednesday’s sidewinding set-piece curled around the wall, 14 years to the day since Messi netted his first goal for Barcelona, every rotation reminded us all who rules the kingdom of futbol; a 5-foot-7 god with 600 goals in his back pocket.
“Oh my goodness! Just when you think he’s done everything, he comes up with something even more special. The fans are worshipping him, and you can understand why. He is a god of the game… thee god of the game.” – Martin Tyler
It’s easy to look past an underdog when he’s the king of the world’s largest sport, but this little underdog won’t let you forget it. Not with moments like this.