Football provided a dramatic new face in 2005 in Argentina’s Leo Messi, aged 18, who has already been described by some as the ‘new Maradona’. He is regarded as one of the potential young stars of the forthcoming FIFA World Cup in Germany this summer
When he made his first team debut for FC Barcelona, he became the third youngest player to play for the club at 17 years 3 months 23 days. In 2005 he captained Argentina to victory in the Under-20 World Cup in the Netherlands, earning the Golden Boot as leading scorer with six goals, and the Golden Ball as best player of the tournament.
Messi had started playing football at an early age for his hometown club, Newell’s Old Boys in Rosario, Argentina, but at at the age of 11 he was diagnosed as suffering from a hormone deficiency and his parents moved with him to Barcelona where he could get treatment. He had a trial with FC Barcelona at 13 and was chosen to play in the club’s youth sides. He worked his way up through the teams and in October 2004 he made his official debut for the first team against Espanyol.
He was offered the chance to play for the Spanish national football team, but declined, opting to wait for the opportunity to play for the country of his birth. In June 2004 he was selected to play in an Under-20 friendly against Paraguay, making his full international debut in August 2005 against Hungary.
In June FC Barcelona extended his contract until 2010, with a sell-on clause in the deal valuing him at 150 million Euros.