1. He’s scored against every other team in LaLiga Santander
The prospect of facing Lionel Messi obviously strikes fear into the hearts of every team that comes up against him and it’s understandable: he’s netted at least twice against each of the other 19 sides currently in the top flight. His favourite victim is Sevilla, a side he has scored against 32 times in just 35 appearances. Over the course of his career, Messi has scored against 37 of the 40 teams he’s faced in LaLiga. Only Cadiz, Murcia and Xerez, who each played a single season in the top flight in the early years of his career, have escaped unscathed.
2. He’s been playing with Gerard Piqué for almost 20 years
Messi and his current Barça teammate Gerard Piqué have spent most of their footballing lives together. They were both in the same team in Barcelona’s La Masia academy from 2000 onwards and it was clear early on that they would go on to achieve great things in football. Since Piqué returned to the Camp Nou from Manchester United in 2008, the two have played 421 matches together. Only Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta have shared the pitch with Messi on more occasions than Piqué.
3. He dedicates every goal to his grandmother
The sight of Messi pointing towards the sky with both hands after scoring a goal has become an almost weekly occurrence in LaLiga but not many people know its meaning. It is, in fact, a tribute to grandmother Celia, who Messi credits with sparking his interest in football and supporting him as he took his first steps in the game. Sadly, she passed away in 1998 and never saw him play at the top level, but his iconic celebration ensures that her spirit lives on.
4. He could have played for Spain
Messi has represented Argentina throughout his international career, but he could have been wearing the red of Spain had he accepted an offer to join the national team of the country where he has spent his entire professional career. After spending his childhood in Barcelona, he was eligible to play for the 2010 world champions, but Messi says the idea never crossed his mind. The rest, as they say, is history as he has gone on to become Argentina’s all-time top scorer with 65 goals.
5. His footballing idol growing up was Pablo Aimar
Many up-and-coming players consider Messi as a role model, but it’s easy to forget that he had an idol growing up too, just like any other aspiring footballer. His was fellow Argentina and former Valencia and R. Zaragoza playmaker Pablo Aimar. They faced each other in LaLiga on several occasions, including on one special night in 2004 when Aimar came up to the 17-year-old Messi, an unused sub on the night, after the game to offer him his shirt. He still treasures that jersey to this day.