Lionel Messi and the napkin contract: Journey of La Pulga
“It is imperative one plays to amuse oneself, to be happy. That is what children do and I do the same thing.”- the words of a bonafide legend, who despite being one of the greatest players to ever grace a football, remains humble and ever inspiring.
In 2004, Argentina found the probable successor of Diego Maradona when a 17-year-old, young and warm-blooded Lionel Messi plunged into the arena of International football. Prior to this, Messi was playing for a local club - River Plate, who refused to pay for his medical treatment when diagnosed with Growth Hormone Deficiency. This could have been a fallback for the prosperous future that led in front of him. The deficiency could result in stunted growth, poor vision or immunity.
But Barcelona coach Carles Rexach acted as a savior for him after he had given a trial for the team. There and then, the first step to his germination took place on a piece of napkin, where Carles signed a contract with Lionel and agreed to pay for his medical treatment.
In 2004-05, Messi kicked off his startling career with his first goal against Albacete in La Liga and was coined as the youngest league goal. Moving on, Messi’s coherent and nerve-wracking performances in 2005-06 led Barcelona to win the La Liga and the Champions League.
In 2007, Messi scored his first hat-trick against Real Madrid in El Clasico. By 2009, he was head to head with Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo who just made a switch from Manchester United to Los Blancos. During the calendar year, Messi scored 91 goals in total for Barcelona and Argentina, titling himself with the most goals in a year after breaking Gerd Muller’s record of 85 goals.
Lionel Messi had been offered a large amount of money to play for an unnamed club in Spain to pry him away from Barcelona. But the Barcelona star has always shown his loyalty and love towards his team and the supportive followers. A major reason for this loyalty is the financial help he received while undergoing treatment for the growth hormone deficiency and this reason outshines every other reason to leave the club for money.
Messi’s devotion towards Argentina cannot be ignored or taken lightly. La Pulga has an unfulfilled desire of not having won the FIFA World Cup for Argentina. For him and every other footballer, this tournament holds the most ruling position in the field. Though, his hopes didn’t take a downward path after being eliminated from the World Cup in 2006 and 2010. Whereas, in 2014, Messi and his team were able to make their way up to the finals but lost to the vigorous opponents, Germany, by 1-0. Messi, who received the golden ball, was disappointed for not being able to get his hands on the prestigious FIFA world cup trophy.
Luck didn't favor him in the Copa America as well with Argentina losing 2 consecutive finals to Chile. Additionally, after losing the finals, he announced retirement from International football for not being able to win the title but was brought back by the new coach Edgardo Bauza. Currently, Argentina have lost to France in the quarterfinals 3-4 and hence, once again, Messi’s dream has remained unrealized.
Throughout his 17 year long career in football, Messi has faced a lot of disapproving, unfavorable and gut-wrenching situations. He faced many injuries out of which the most frequent is intra-articular ligament crack knee, which he has faced many times. Also, in 2016, Messi and his father were accused of tax fraud which lead them to pay a huge amount of fine in place of imprisonment of 21 months.
Also, Messi has often been compared to Real Madrid’s star- Cristiano Ronaldo. Their on-field rivalry isn’t hidden from anyone. The rivalry took place because of the die-hard supporters of both, who argue as to who has the edge. Both of them together have crafted the new outlook of modern era football. The two compete on the grounds of goals scored, wins, titles won, brand endorsements and wealth.
In terms of goals, with 765 appearances Messi has 617 goals, whereas, with 915 appearances Ronaldo has 658 goals. However, both the strikers deny any personal rivalry and consider it as a motivation to score more and perform better. Thus, the fans would cherish the most heated rivalry of this era and experience the two legends’ journey together.
Messi is known for being a Goodwill Ambassador to UNICEF and helped them raise funds over US$1 million. His dedication and involvement towards UNICEF were also because of his tough battles he faced in his childhood. So, in order to protect other vulnerable children from such problems, he not only engaged in UNICEF but set up his own charitable trust, called Leo Messi Foundation, which associates with medical and financial support to children with life suffering diseases. His involvement has made a difference in the lives of many.
To all those who are struggling to achieve what they desire, should look up to people like Lionel Messi and live by his principles like - 'my desire is to always get better, to always want more, to always be my top critic, and accepting the good and the bad.' In the end, let’s hope we get to see more of his magic on and off the field.