Lionel Messi was born to Jorge Messi and Celia Cuccittini in Rosario, Argentina. His father was a factory steel worker and his mother was employed as a part-time cleaner. Messi started playing football as a boy and in 1995 joined the youth team of Newell’s Old Boys (a Rosario-based top-division football club). Messi’s phenomenal skills garnered the attention of prestigious clubs on both sides of the Atlantic. However, recognizably smaller than most of the kids in his age group, at the age of 11 Messi was diagnosed with growth hormone deficiency (GHD). This was a condition that stunted growth and required expensive medical treatment, including the use of the drug Human growth hormone. Despite being immensely talented, he was not offered help by the local clubs, who were not willing to pay for his treatment. It was at this juncture that Carles Rexach, the sporting director of FC Barcelona, came to his aid. At the age of 13, Messi was offered the chance to train at soccer powerhouse FC Barcelona's youth academy, La Masia, and have his medical bills covered by the team, Messi's family picked up and moved across the Atlantic to make a new home in Spain.
Messi was enrolled at the Barcelona’s youth academy. He scored 21 goals in 14 games for the junior team, and he quickly graduated through the higher-level teams until at age 16 he was given his informal debut with FC Barcelona in a friendly match.
Messi progressed through the ranks and was given his first appearance in the 2004/05 season becoming the youngest player to score a league goal. In 2006, Messi was part of the double winning team which won both La Liga (Spanish League) and Champions League. By next season, (2006-07) aged just 20, Messi was the first choice striker and an essential part of the Barcelona team – scoring 14 goals in 26 league games.
Messi’s play continued to rapidly improve over the years, and by 2008 he was one of the most dominant players in the world, finishing second to Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo in the voting for the 2008 FIFA World Player of the Year. In the 2009-10 season, Messi scored 47 goals in all competitions, equalling Ronaldo’s record total for Barcelona. As the seasons have progressed, Messi kept improving and breaking his own records. In the calendar year of 2012, he broke the all-time world record for most goals scored in a calendar year. His final total of goals in 2012 was 91 – beating the previous record of 85 by German Gerd Muller, and Pele’s milestone of 75 in 1958.
He announced his retirement from international football following Argentina’s loss to Chile in the final of Copa América Centenario on 26 June 2016. Following his retirement, a campaign began to urge Messi to change his decision. On 12 August 2016, it was announced that Messi has reversed his decision to retire and will be part of Argentina's 2018 World Cup campaign. In the 2018 Football World Cup Messi scored a goal in the Argentina's final group match against Nigeria and helped his team to a 2-1 victory. In the process, he became the first player to score in the World Cup in his teens, twenties, and his thirties and also became the third Argentine after Diego Maradona and Gabriel Batistuta to score in three different World Cups.
He scored his 600th career goal in club competition during Barcelona's 3-0 win against Liverpool in the Champions League in May 2019, just says after Cristiano Ronaldo scored his 600th career club goal. However, Messi reached the 600-goal mark in 683 games while it took Ronaldo 799 games. In December 2019, he won the Ballon d’Or award for a record sixth time, having been tied with Ronaldo on five.
On June 30, 2017, Messi married Antonella Roccuzzo, his longtime girlfriend and the cousin of his best friend and fellow soccer player Lucas Scaglia. Messi and Roccuzzo have two sons together: Thiago, born in November 2012 , and Mateo, born in September 2015. Although famously private off the field, Messi has quietly helped others in need. In 2007, he formed the Leo Messi Foundation to provide opportunities for disadvantaged youths. In early 2010, UNICEF named him a goodwill ambassador, with a focus on fighting for children's rights across the globe.
As of 2019, Messi is the world's highest-paid athlete in the world accounting for salary plus bonuses and endorsements, according to Forbes, bypassing fellow soccer great Ronaldo and basketball star LeBron James.