Lionel Messi is arguably the greatest footballer to have graced the game. The little magician has had one of the most celebrated and trophy-laden careers of all time and also added an international trophy to his cabinet by winning the Copa America 2021 with Argentina.
The 34-year-old has broken several long-standing records in his glittering career so far and is the only player in the history of football to win seven Ballon d'Or awards.
This article will help you learn a few unusual facts about the diminutive Argentine. On that note, here are six interesting facts that you probably didn't know about Lionel Messi.
#6 The growth hormone deficiency and love for Coke
We all know Messi was born in Rosario – a birthplace he shares with the legendary revolutionary Che Guevara.
During his tender years, he had a growth hormone deficiency which required expensive medication. Many believe it was Barcelona who paid for this treatment when he was signed by the Catalan giants in 2001.
However, contrary to popular belief, his medication was taken care of by the Argentinian social security.
Despite his health condition, Messi was just 13 when he joined Barcelona and, like any other teenager, had a sweet spot for cola drinks. His love for aerated drinks was such that all the soda machines in La Masia had to be removed to prevent him from spoiling his health further.
#5 The paper napkin that rewrote footballing history
Messi rewrote most of the footballing record books with his goal-scoring exploits, but it all started when Barcelona's technical secretary Carles Rexach was mesmerized by the brilliance of the then 13-year-old.
Rexach was so spellbound by what he had seen that due to the non-availability of a contract at the time, he decided to seal the deal on a piece of paper available instantaneously – in this case, a paper napkin.
The paper napkin has been kept in a frame to preserve it for the ages as it marks a new era in the history of FC Barcelona.
#4 Lionel Messi or Leonel Mecci?
Messi made a name for himself on the shores of Spain, but his success reverberated across the Atlantic in his home nation of Argentina.
However, despite being the apple of Barcelona's eye, he was a new kid on the block. Not everyone was aware of the presence of the diminutive genius, who would go on to be adored in Spain as well as in Argentina.
When Messi received his first call-up from the Argentine Football Association for the Under-20s, they were not sure what his name was. He was the only player who plied his trade outside Argentina at the time. When he eventually received his call up, it was addressed to one 'Leonel Mecci'.
#3 An unholy start for the divine one!
Messi made his debut for Argentina on 17th August 2005 at the age of 18, when he came on as a 63rd-minute substitute for Lisandro Lopez in a friendly against Hungary. It should have been the day we look back on as the beginning of Messi's love affair with La Albiceleste, but that wasn't to be the case.
In a debut that lasted only 43 seconds, Messi came on and immediately found himself on the ball. He set off on one of his trademark runs as he looked to announce himself with a memorable debut.
However, it was not to be, as Hungarian international Vilmos Vanczak held the then 18-year-old by his shirt. While trying to shake off Vanczak, Messi struck him on the face with his arms and the referee deemed it a deliberate elbow. The youngster received his marching orders and was back in the dressing room before the world caught a glimpse of him!
It has been reported that following his unceremonious debut, Messi was found weeping in the dressing room with his head buried in his hands.
#2 Coined a new word in the dictionary
Words become superfluous when you try to describe the genius that is Lionel Messi, so much so that even dictionaries find it hard to catch up with the little maestro.
In February of 2013, Santillana, a dictionary in Spanish, saw a new adjective added to its books - "Inmessionate."
The word was chosen by the then Argentine coach Alejandro Sabella in association with Pepsi, and it roughly means:
- The perfect way to play football, an unlimited capacity for self-improvement.
- Describes Lionel Messi, the best player of all time.
However, Messi is not the only footballer to have an entry in the dictionary. In 2012, Sweden honored Zlatan Ibrahimovic, as they coined a term to describe his greatness in the Swedish dictionary.
The word 'Zlatanera' is a verb and means – 'to dominate.' Fitting!
#1 The real reason why he stands alone on the side in all team pictures
Even the greats are mortals, and despite his outlandish footballing skills, there is a part of Messi that is still human. The diminutive Argentine can always be seen on the left corner of any team picture standing arm-in-arm with his compatriots, but with a slightly different stance.
The reason behind that is because of the latent inferiority complex that the former Barcelona superstar had to suffer in his early years. At the time, he was still the most gifted amongst his peers but had not yet conquered the footballing world.
By standing alone on one end of the picture, Messi does not need to bend his knees, and his stance appears taller than that of his teammates, who bend their knees to for the perfect photograph.
Small things such as this that remind us that no matter how gifted Messi might be, he is still a mere mortal!