Lionel Messi: A Sports Icon that Influenced Pop Culture

Lionel Messi is one of, if not the most, popular athletes in history, as his name, appearance, jersey colors, and jersey numbers are easily recognizable by millions of people around the world. Because of his amazing skills and massive popularity, Lionel Messi has been one of the highest-paid footballers for many years, and he is also considered a very influential person who inspires and motivates a lot of people, especially in his home country of Argentina.

While Lionel Messi is very popular, there are still some people who might not know him, as not all of us play football and follow its players. If you want to know more about Lionel Messi, here is a guide to his early life, his career, and his influence on pop culture.

The Early Life of Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi portrait

Lionel Messi was burned on June 24, 1987, in Rosario, which is the largest city in the Santa Fe province of Argentina. He is the third of four children of Celia Cuccitini, an employee of a magnet manufacturing shop, and Jorge Messi, a steel factory manager. His family loves football, so it is no surprise that Lionel Messi had already developed a passion for the sport at a young age while playing with older brothers Rodrigo and Matias, along with cousins Emanuel and Maximiliano Biancucchi, who interestingly also became professional football players.

When Messi was six years old, he joined Newell’s Old Boys, a football club in Rosario that he and his family have supported for years. During the six years of his tenure at the said football club, he scored almost 500 goals and was one of the most popular players for the club. After his playing years at Newell’s Old Boys, Lionel Messi transferred to Futbol Club Barcelona (commonly referred to as FC Barcelona or simply Barcelona) and its youth academy called La Masia, where Messi would further hone his skills in the sport. He relocated from Argentina to Spain at the age of 13 in order to play for Barcelona.

His relocation to Spain was made possible with the help of his relatives who lived near Barcelona, as well as Barcelona’s then-first team director Charly Rexach, who wanted to sign after seeing him play and witnessing how much potential Messi had. It is interesting to note that when Messi was offered a contract to commit to FC Barcelona, Charly Rexach wrote the contract on a paper napkin because he had no other paper at hand when he set up a meeting with Messi and his family.

Lionel Messi, along with his family, relocated to Barcelona in February 2001, and they lived in an apartment near the football club stadium called Camp Nou. Some time after the relocation, Messi’s mother moved back to Rosario along with his brothers and little sister, so his father was the only one who stayed with him in Barcelona. Despite feeling homesick, Messi still pursued his dream of becoming an integral player for FC Barcelona.

Lionel Messi’s Football Career

Lionel Messi made his competitive football debut in October 2004 at the age of 17. During the early years of his career at Barcelona, he had already established himself as one of the most important players of the club. He was one of the integral players in Barcelona’s amazing feat of achieving a treble (a term used for clubs that won a trophy three times in one year) during the 2008-09 season, and it was also in the same year that he won his first Ballon d’Or, an award given to the best player of the season.

In the following years, Messi would win four consecutive Ballons d’Or, thus making him the first football player to win the award four times. Messi would win the Ballon d’Or six times in total, with the last award given in 2019. Before leaving Barcelona in 2021, Lionel Messi has won 34 trophies with the football club, including seven Copa del Rey titles, ten La Liga trophies, and four UEFA Champions League trophies. Besides awards, he also holds records for the most hat-tricks (scoring three goals in a single game) in La Liga (36 times), most goals in La Liga (474 goals), and most assists in La Liga (192 assists).

In August 2021, Lionel Messi joined the French football club Paris Saint-Germain. He would spend two seasons with the club, and during his tenure, Paris Saint-Germain won the Ligue 1 (the premier or most popular football league in France) two times. Messi joined the American football club Inter Miami in July 2023, and in his first season, the football club won the Leagues Cup.

The Impact of Lionel Messi on Pop Culture

Lionel Messi with his teammates for the Argentinian national football team

As one of the most popular football players in the world, Lionel Messi has had a significant impact on pop culture, as he has been mentioned and referenced in numerous forms of entertainment, including films, TV shows, video games, and books.

Lionel Messi has been a long-time endorser of the footwear brand Adidas, and it is because of him that the brand has cemented its place as a premier brand for football players alongside Nike. The football cleats that Lionel Messi would wear in games, especially the championship games, are instant best-sellers for Adidas, with some of the brand’s stores even selling out on the stocks of Messi’s boots. In addition to football cleats, Lionel Messi also has the best-selling replica jerseys in the world, and Adidas also manufactures Messi’s jerseys. At the 2022 FIFA World Cup, where Messi’s home team of Argentina won the trophy, Adidas sold out Messi’s iconic No.10 jersey in different stores.

Because of Messi’s massive popularity, he has also been one of the most sought-after endorsees for various brands, although Messi has accepted only a few endorsements over the years. Some of the brands that he endorsed include Pepsi, Dolce & Gabbana, Gillette, Turkish Airlines, and the Hard Rock Café. In May 2022, Lionel Messi became the tourism ambassador of Saudi Arabia.

In the realm of social media, Messi is one of the most followed people on various social media platforms, including Facebook and Instagram. On Facebook, Messi has more than 114 million followers, and on Instagram, he has more than 450 million followers. The number of followers for both platforms is the second-highest behind Cristiano Ronaldo, who is a perceived rival of Messi. Lionel Messi’s post on December 18, 2022, which shows him celebrating Argentina’s championship win in the 2022 FIFA World Cup, is the most-liked post on Instagram, with over 60 million likes.

It is undeniable that Lionel Messi is an influential and impactful figure not only in sports but in people’s lives. Messi has become an inspiration for many people, especially in Argentina, where football is incredibly popular. Because of his popularity and influence, Messi’s story and career will continue to be inspiring even after his retirement.