Photo: Argentina fans show their pride with a banner of famous Argentines Diego Maradona, Pope Francis I and Lionel Messi at the Estadio Nacional de Santiago in Chile for the Copa America final - @CA2015
Editor's note: Cristiano Ronaldo's Ballon d'Or win is his third, leaving him 1 behind his rival, Barcelona's Lionel Messi. The award, the most prestigious in soccer, was made Monday at a FIFA ceremony in Zurich. - Tom
Lionel Andrés "Leo" Messi Cuccittini (Spanish pronunciation: [ljoˈnel anˈdɾes ˈmesi] ( ); born 24 June 1987), is an Argentine footballer who plays as a forward for Spanish club FC Barcelona and the Argentina national team.
By the age of 21, Messi had received Ballon d'Or and FIFA World Player of the Year nominations. The following year, in 2009, he won his first Ballon d'Or and FIFA World Player of the Year awards. He followed this up by winning the inaugural FIFA Ballon d'Or in 2010, and then again in 2011 and 2012. He also won the 2010–11 UEFA Best Player in Europe Award. At the age of 24, Messi became Barcelona's all-time top scorer in all official club competitions. At age 25, Messi became the youngest player to score 200 goals in La Liga.
Commonly ranked as the best player in the world and rated by some in the sport as the greatest of all time, Messi is the first football player in history to win four FIFA/Ballons d'Or, all of which he won consecutively, and the first to win three European Golden Shoe awards. With Barcelona, Messi has won six La Ligas, two Copas del Rey, six Supercopas de España, three UEFA Champions Leagues, two UEFA Super Cups and two Club World Cups.
Messi is the first and only player to top-score in four consecutive Champions League campaigns, and also holds the record for the most hat-tricks scored (4) in the competition. In March 2012, Messi made Champions League history by becoming the first player to score five goals in one match. He also matched José Altafini's record of 14 goals in a single Champions League season. Messi set the European record for most goals scored in a season during the 2011–12 season, with 73 goals. In the same season, he set the current goalscoring record in a single La Liga season, scoring 50 goals. Also in that season, Messi became the first player ever to score and assist in six different official competitions in one season. On 16 February 2013, Messi scored his 300th Barcelona goal. On 30 March 2013, Messi scored in his 19th consecutive La Liga game, becoming the first footballer in history to net in consecutive matches against every team in a professional football league. He extended his record scoring streak to 21 consecutive league matches, and the run came to a halt only when he sustained a hamstring injury. In March 2014, with a hat-trick against Real Madrid, Messi became the player with the most goals and most hat-tricks in the history of El Clásico.
Messi helped Argentina win the 2005 FIFA U-20 World Cup, finishing as both the best player and the top scorer (with six goals). In 2006, he became the youngest Argentine to play and score in the FIFA World Cup, and won a runners-up medal at the Copa América in 2007, in which he was named young player of the tournament. In 2008, he won an Olympic Gold Medal with the Argentina Olympic football team. At the 2014 World Cup, he led Argentina to the final, winning four consecutive Man of the Match awards in the process, and received the Golden Ball award as the best player of the tournament. In 2013, SportsPro rated him the second-most marketable athlete in the world. His playing style and stature have drawn comparisons to compatriot Diego Maradona, who himself declared Messi his "successor".