Factbox on Argentina and Barcelona forward Lionel Messi who won the Ballon d'Or for world player of the year for an unprecedented fourth successive time on Monday.
Born June 24, 1987 in Rosario, Sante Fe, Argentina.
* Joined Barcelona as a 13-year-old in 2000 and shone in the youth ranks before then-coach Frank Rijkaard gave him his senior debut at the age of 16 in a friendly against Porto in 2003.
* Led Argentina to the title at the 2005 World Youth Championship in the Netherlands, scoring two penalties in a 2-1 final victory over Nigeria.
* Became a Spanish citizen in 2005.
* A bureaucratic argument over whether he could be classed as a European Union player meant he did not represent Barcelona in a competitive game until 2005. He went on to score six goals in 17 appearances as the club won La Liga for the second year in a row.
* In 2009, Messi played an influential role in Pep Guardiola's Barcelona side who won six trophies in the calendar year including the Champions League, La Liga and the World Club Cup. Voted World Player of the Year.
* Won La Liga again in 2010 and retained the World Player of the Year award beating Spanish World Cup winners Andres Iniesta and Xavi.
* Inspired Barcelona to a 3-1 win against Manchester United in the 2011 Champions League final, scoring one goal and creating another.
* Scored 53 goals in the 2010-11 season. Helped Barca to a third consecutive La Liga title and scored as they beat Santos 4-0 to win the World Club Cup.
* Although Barcelona failed to retain either La Liga or the Champions League, Messi completed 2012 with an extraordinary total of 91 goals in all competitions, a record for a calendar year.
* Made his debut for Argentina in a friendly against Hungary in August 2005 but was sent off less than a minute after going on as a substitute for elbowing a defender who had pulled his shirt.
* Faced a race against time to make the 2006 World Cup and played only a bit-part role in the tournament. Argentina were knocked out in the quarter-finals by hosts Germany after a penalty shootout.
* Led Argentina to the gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
* Part of the Argentina team coached by Diego Maradona who were dumped out of the 2010 World Cup, losing 4-0 to Germany in the quarter-finals. Messi failed to score and struggled to find his best form at the tournament in South Africa.
* Scored his first Argentina hat-trick in a 3-1 friendly win away to Switzerland in February and bagged another three in the 4-3 win over Brazil in June. Also scored five goals in the World Cup qualifiers as he laid rest to the criticism that he saves his best for Barcelona.
Photograph: Michael Buholzer/Reuters