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Argentina plays Nigeria in men's footlball final in Beijing
Argentina's Lionel Messi (R) is tackled by Nigeria's Chibuzor Okonkwo during the men's football final in the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games August 23, 2008. Argentina won 1-0 for the gold, while Nigeria settled for the silver and Brazil the bronze. (UPI Photo/Stephen Shaver)
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Lionel Andrés "Leo" Messi (born 24 June 1987 in Rosario) is an Argentine footballer who plays for Spanish La Liga club FC Barcelona and the Argentine national team. Messi is considered to be one of the best football players of his generation, having received several Ballon d'Or and FIFA World Player of the Year nominations by the age of 21. He was selected as both the FIFPro and World Soccer Magazine Young Player of the Year for three years running from 2005–2008. His playing style and ability have drawn comparisons to football legend Diego Maradona. Indeed, Maradona himself declared Messi his "successor".

Messi began playing football at a young age and his potential was quickly identified by FC Barcelona. He left Newell's Old Boys's youth team in 2000 and moved with his family to Europe, as Barcelona offered treatment for his growth hormone deficiency. Making his debut in the 2004–05 season, he broke the La Liga record for the youngest footballer to play a league game, and also the youngest to score a league goal. Major honours soon followed as Barcelona won La Liga in Messi's debut season, and won a double of the league and UEFA Champions League in 2006. His breakthrough season was in 2006–07: he became a first team regular, scoring a hat-trick in El Clásico and finishing with 14 goals in 26 league games. Perhaps his most successful season was the 2008–09 season, in which Messi scored 38 goals to play an integral part in a treble winning campaign.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.
It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Lionel Messi."
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