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 professional footballer who plays for Spanish club FC Barcelona and the Argentina national team as a forward, and is also the captain of the 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. In September 2014 he scored his 400th senior career goal for club and country aged just 27. In November 2014, Messi became the all-time top scorer in La Liga, and the all-time leading goalscorer in the UEFA Champions League.
Often considered 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 seven La Ligas, three Copas del Rey, six Supercopas de España, four UEFA Champions Leagues, two UEFA Super Cups and two FIFA Club World Cups.
Messi is the only player to top-score in four consecutive Champions League seasons, and also holds the record for the most hat-tricks scored in the competition with five. In March 2012, he made Champions League history by becoming the first player to score five goals in one match. In the 2011–12 season, Messi set the European record for most goals scored in a season with 73 goals, set the goalscoring record in a single La Liga season with 50 goals, and became the second player ever to score in six different official competitions in one season after Pedro. In February 2013 he 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. 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. In October 2014, Messi, aged 27, became the youngest player to score 250 goals in La Liga. In November 2014, Messi scored a hat-trick against Sevilla to reach 253 La Liga goals, becoming the all-time top scorer in La Liga. In May 2015, he scored his 77th Champions League goal to become its all-time leading scorer.
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. In 2015, he won a second runners-up medal at the Copa América. His playing style and stature have drawn comparisons to compatriot Diego Maradona, who himself declared Messi his "successor".