Professional soccer player. Born Luis Lionel Andres Messi on June 24, 1987, in Rosario, Argentina. Messi, who stands just 5-foot 7-inches, got his start in the game at the age of 8, when he started playing for the Newell's Old Boys, a team in Rosario. Recognizably smaller than most of the boys he played with, Messi was eventually diagnosed by doctors as suffering from a hormone deficiency that restricted his growth.
Medication wasn't cheap—about £500 a month—and Messi's parents couldn't afford to pay for it on their own. So, at the age of 13, when Messi was offered a chance to play for Barcelona with the opportunity to 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.
Short and fast with a fierce style of play, Messi soon drew comparisons to another famous Argentinean footballer: Diego Maradona. Messi moved quickly through the ranks of the team's junior system, and by the age of 16 Messi had made his first appearance for Barcelona. He put himself in the record books on May 1, 2005, as the youngest player to ever score a goal for the franchise. That same year he led Argentina to the title in the under-20 World Cup, scoring on a pair of penalty kicks to propel the team over Nigeria.
In recent years Messi has become one of the game's highest paid players, earning an estimated $18 million a year. He's justified the price-tag by steering Barcelona to a wealth of success, most notably in 2009 when the left-footer's team captured the Champions League, La Liga, and Spanish Club titles. That same year, after two consecutive runner-up finishes, he took home the FIFA World Player of the Year award.
Even the great Maradona has gushed about his fellow countryman.
"I see him as very similar to me," the retired player told the BBC. "He's a leader and is offering lessons in beautiful football. He has something different to any other player in the world."
Off the field Messi, who got his EU citizenship in 2009, has tried to make a name for himself. In early 2010, he was named a Goodwill Ambassador by UNICEF with a focus on fighting for children's rights across the globe.