top of page

The Story of Lionel Messi and Barcelona

The story that started with a paper napkin on a Thursday of December, 2000 has finally come to an end. Lionel Andrés Messi, one of the biggest sports icon of this generation (arguably all time) has finally left the city which he has called his home for more than 2 whole decades. The myth was all set for a fairy tale ending until all hell broke lose on the fifth of August with a mere 10 word tweet from the official FC Barcelona twitter handle.

 
 

Born in 1987 in Rosario, Argentina, Lionel was recognised as a generational talent since he was a young boy. One who was born just to dominate and reach the zenith “The Beautiful Game”. An unusually diminutive boy, the Argentine was 10 years old when he was diagnosed with growth hormone deficiency but his talent shined regardless. The health insurance covered only two years of the treatment for this condition, which cost at least $1,000 per month. The youth club Leo was enrolled in (Newell's Old Boys) agreed to contribute, but later went back on their promise, a decision which changed Leo’s life in all ways possible.

 
 

It was at this time when a trial was arranged with the club in Catalonia FC Barcelona. The officials at the club were so impressed with the Argentine that after some hesitance they not only agreed to pay for his treatment but also got him admitted to La Masia (Barcelona’s world famous Football Youth Academy which has given us players like Iniesta, Xavi, Pique, Guardiola etc.). In order to show their commitment to Leo a contract was signed on a paper napkin due to the unavailability of paper at that time (One which is still preserved as a relic) in a restaurant.

 
The story that started off with a contract on a napkin ended with Messi in tears holding a napkin consoling himself, for he was leaving. Lionel Messi and Barcelona
 

So, a 13 year old Lionel Messi relocated to Barcelona with his family. A move which wasn’t easy for a child well-adjusted in his life in Rosario and had to change his entire lifestyle (including his language) for this move. At home, he would suffer from homesickness after his mother moved back to Rosario with his siblings, while he stayed in Barcelona with his father. At the same time, during his first year at the club, there were problems registering Leo as he wasn’t a Spanish national. Also, Newell’s Boys (his previous club) was unwilling to make the necessary transfer arrangements with which Barcelona could enrol him in the Spanish Football Federation. This prevented from playing with other kids of his age in competitive games. He was only limited to playing friendly games and games with Children’s B team (Not the A team).


Leo’s experience in Barcelona had definitely started on the wrong foot. Suffering multiple injuries, going through injury rehabs and in the end only playing two official games and one friendly. Several of these difficulties added up and things really couldn’t get any worse so much so that his family considered giving up on the dream and returning to their home town of Rosario.