Widely acknowledged as the best footballer of his generation, Lionel Messi has been given the Ballon d'Or
as the world's player of the year an unprecedented seven times: for the years 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2019, and 2021. With Argentina, he won the World Cup in 2022. Lionel Messi was already a teen superstar of Argentine soccer by the time he turned 18, in 2005. That year he was named the player of the tournament at the under-20 World Cup; played his first game for the Argentine national team (against Hungary on August 17); and scored his first goal (on May 1) with the professional team FC Barcelona, where he played alongside another South American sensation, Ronaldinho
. He was soon being compared to an earlier Argentine soccer hero, Diego Maradona
. Like Maradona, Lionel Messi is an attacking, goal-scoring forward; Barcelona's official site calls him "highly creative." In 2009, Messi helped Barcelona win a rare triple: the Copa del Rey, Spain's La Liga championship, and the Champions League. In 2012 he became the first player to score five goals in a Champions League match, tallying five against Bayern Leverkusen in a 7-1 win on March 7th. At the 2016 Copa America Centenario final, Messi missed a penalty kick, sending the ball into the stands and giving Chile a victory over Argentina. Ten days later, Messi, one of the world's highest-earning athletes, was sentenced by a Spanish court to 21 months in prison for tax fraud. That sentence was later reduced to a fine of 252,000 Euros, or roughly 400 Euros or each day of the 21 months. In 2021, after much drama, Messi left FC Barcelona and moved to Paris Saint-Germain on a two-year contract with an option for a third; ESPN reported that Messi was expected to earn between 30-35 million Euros (that is, $35-41 million) net per year. Later that year he won his record seventh Ballon d'Or.
Lionel Messi was a member of Argentina's World Cup teams for 2006, 2010, 2014, 2018, and 2022. He led Argentina to victory in the 2022 World Cup, held in Doha, Qatar. Messi scored two goals in the final as Argentina defeated France on penalty kicks (4-2) after the game ended in a 3-3 tie. Messi was given the Golden Ball as the tournament's top player.