Apple TV+ is giving soccer fans more behind-the-scenes access to soccer star Lionel Messi and Argentina’s memorable 2022 World Cup championship in a new docuseries. Messi’s World Cup: The Rise of a Legend debuts on the streaming service February 21. The four-part series promises the most personal interviews to date with Messi and “an intimate and unprecedented look at his quest for a legacy-defining World Cup victory.”

Lionel Messi, the little boy who became the greatest in history - AS USA

Messi, now playing for Inter Miami CF of the MLS, helped his home country win soccer’s biggest event for the first time since 1986, scoring two goals in the final and leading Argentina to a 4-2 win over Kylian Mbappé and France on penalties. Argentina’s captain was also named the tournament MVP.

The new series follows up Messi Meets America, Apple’s 2023 look at the star striker’s arrival and first season in the MLS. Inter Miami begins the 2024 regular season also on February 21 with a match against Real Salt Lake.

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Lionel Messi is an Argentinian soccer player who has played for FC Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain, and currently, the MLS club Inter Miami CF as well as the Argentina national team. As a teenager, Messi moved from Argentina to Spain after FC Barcelona agreed to pay for medical treatments related to his growth hormone disorder. At the club, he earned renown as one of the greatest players in history, helping FC Barcelona win more than two dozen league titles and tournaments. In 2012, he set a record for most goals in a calendar year and, a decade later, helped the Argentina national team win its third FIFA World Cup. The eight-time Ballon d’Or winner moved to Paris Saint-Germain in 2021, and in July 2023, he joined Inter Miami.

FULL NAME: Luis Lionel Andres MessiBORN: June 24, 1987BIRTHPLACE: Rosario, ArgentinaSPOUSE: Antonella Roccuzzo (2017-present)CHILDREN: Thiago, Mateo, and Ciro

Lionel Messi, the little boy who became the greatest in history - AS USA


Luis Lionel Andres “Leo” Messi was born on June 24, 1987, in Rosario, Argentina. As a young boy, Messi tagged along when his two older brothers played soccer with their friends, unintimidated by the bigger boys. At the age of 8, he was recruited to join the youth system of Newell’s Old Boys, a Rosario-based club.

Recognizably smaller than most of the kids in his age group, Messi was eventually diagnosed by doctors as suffering from a hormone deficiency that restricted his growth. Messi’s parents, Jorge and Ceclia, decided on a regimen of nightly growth-hormone injections for their son, though it soon proved impossible to pay several hundred dollars per month for the medication.

So, at the age of 13, when Messi was offered the chance to train at soccer powerhouse FC Barcelona’s youth academy, La Masia, and have his medical bills covered by the team, Messi’s family picked up and moved across the Atlantic to make a new home in Spain. Although he was often homesick in his new country, Messi moved quickly through the junior system ranks.

Ultimately, Messi’s short stature—5 feet, 7 inches—combined with his speed and relentless attacking style, has drawn comparisons to another famous Argentinian footballer, Diego Maradona.

Messi played for FC Barcelona for 17 seasons before joining Paris Saint-Germain in 2021 for two seasons. In July 2023, he joined the MLS club Inter Miami.

FC Barcelona

lionel messi looks at the camera with a smile on his face and right arm extended with his index finger pointed, he wears an fc barcelona jersey with blue and maroon stripes, behind him is a part of a blurry goal

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FC Barcelona forward Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring in a January 2006 match. He played for the club for 17 seasons.

At age 13, Messi signed with FC Barcelona. His first appearance for the team was when he was 16. On May 1, 2005, Messi put himself in the record books as the youngest player to ever score a goal for the franchise.

Messi steered Barcelona to a wealth of success, most notably in 2009, when the left-footer’s team captured the Champions League, La Liga, and Spanish Super Cup titles. That same year, after two consecutive runner-up finishes, he took home his first FIFA World Player of the Year honor, as well as his first Ballon d’Or award, the top European individual honor in football.

Messi became the first Argentinian player to win the Ballon d’Or. Even the great Maradona gushed about his fellow countryman. “I see him as very similar to me,” the retired player told the BBC. “He’s a leader and is offering lessons in beautiful football. He has something different than any other player in the world.”

Amazingly, the soccer wizard continued to improve, discovering new ways to elude defenders while leading Barcelona to La Liga and Spanish Super Cup championships in 2010 and 2011, as well as the ’11 Champions League title.

Messi embarked on an all-out assault on the record books in 2012. He became the first player to score five goals in a Champions League match in early March, and a few weeks later, he surpassed Cesar Rodriguez’s club-record 232 goals to become Barcelona’s all-time leading scorer. By the end of the year, Messi had accumulated an astounding 91 goals in club and international play, eclipsing the 85 netted in a single calendar year by Gerd Muller in 1972. Fittingly, he broke another record when he was named the Ballon d’Or winner for the fourth consecutive time.

In 2013, the soccer great came back to earth somewhat due to the persistence of hamstring injuries, but he regained his record-breaking form by becoming the all-time leading scorer in La Liga and Champions League play in late 2014.

After helping Barcelona achieve a historic second treble in 2015, he was honored with his fifth Ballon d’Or trophy. Four years later, following another La Liga title, Messi again established a new standard for excellence by claiming his sixth Ballon d’Or.

On August 5, 2021, FC Barcelona announced it couldn’t resign Messi due to the team’s budget constraints and La Liga restrictions. Despite having voiced his desire to leave the club the prior season, Messi bid a teary farewell after 17 seasons: “This is really difficult for me after so many years spent here, being here my entire life. I’m not ready for this.”

Paris Saint-Germain

lionel messi dribbles and looks down at a soccer ball on a grass field, he wears a dark navy soccer uniform, and an opponent player watches from behind

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Lionel Messi in his final match as a member of Paris Saint-Germain in June 2023

Four days after the shocking news from FC Barcelona, Messi signed with Paris Saint-Germain. The 34-year-old inked a two-year contract with the French club. The move saw him reunite with former teammate Neymar as well as the talented Kylian Mbappé.

Messi made his debut for the club on August 29, 2021, and scored his first goal that September. PSG won two Ligue 1 titles with Messi but twice failed to advance beyond the round of 16 in the Champions League finals.

Although his contract allowed for an optional third year at PSG, the team announced it would release Messi as a free agent when the deal expired on June 30, 2023. Earlier in the year, the club suspended and fined Messi after he visited Saudi Arabia on an unauthorized trip. This all but sealed fate on the soccer legend’s widely expected move.

Messi’s last game for PSG was June 3, 2023. In total, he started in 72 games, notching 32 goals and 34 assists.

Inter Miami CF

lionel messi looks at a midair soccer ball as an opponent faces him, messi wears a pink and black uniform, the opponent wears a black and gold uniform

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Lionel Messi, seen here in a September 2023 game, has played for Inter Miami since July.

On June 7, 2023, Messi told two Spanish media outlets he planned to play for the MLS club Inter Miami CF, which is partially owned by former soccer player David Beckham. “I have made the decision that I am going to Miami,” Messi said at the time, per ESPN. Messi later told Time he strongly considered joining a Saudi Arabian team before deciding on Inter Miami.

A little over a month later, on July 16, the team officially welcomed him on a 2.5-year contract that runs through the 2025 season. The deal was reportedly worth around $150 million, including an annual salary between $50 million and $60 million, a signing bonus, revenue sharing with the league’s media partner, and team equity upon retirement.

Inter Miami immediately benefitted on and off the field from their new team captain’s presence. The club went on a 12-match winning streak and captured the Leagues Cup, an annual tournament between teams from the MLS and Liga MX. Messi wound up scoring 11 goals in 14 games overall. However, with Messi injured late in the season, Inter Miami went winless in seven straight and failed to qualify for the playoffs. He was named the club’s 2023 MVP in November.

Messi has directly boosted revenue for the team, as well. Attendance at home games spiked 40 percent, the most in the MLS. According to The Athletic, the least expensive Inter Miami season ticket prices rose from $485 to $884 per seat from 2023 to 2024. Even with the price jump, Inter Miami announced 2024 season tickets sold out at the end of November, two months out of the start of the preseason. Not surprisingly, his jersey became the top seller in the MLS.

Messi and Inter Miami open the 2024 MLS regular season on February 21.

lionel messi sits in a stairwell and holds a soccer ball on his knees, he smiles at the camera and wears an argentina national team uniform

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Lionel Messi in June 2005, at the start of his career with Argentina’s national team

In summer 2005, Messi quickly made a name for himself on his native country’s under-20 squad. He led Argentina to the title in the FIFA U-20 World Cup, scoring on a pair of penalty kicks to propel the team over Nigeria. Less than two months later, he made his pro debut with Argentina in an August friendly match against Hungary but played less than two minutes before receiving a red card and being ejected from the game.

For all his success with Barcelona, Messi repeatedly came under fire for his inability to help Argentina’s national team win a major title. In the 2014 World Cup, Argentina lost to Germany in the final, though Messi was named player of the tournament that year. In 2016, following Argentina’s second consecutive loss to Chile in the final of the Copa America tournament, Messi announced he was ending his run with the national team.

The soccer great eventually reversed his decision, but his participation in the 2018 World Cup did not bring that elusive title, as hoped. After Messi scored an early goal in a 2-1 win over Nigeria that helped his team advance from the group stage, he was largely kept in check by France, his two assists not enough to stave off a 4-3 defeat that sent Argentina packing.

The following year, after Messi heavily criticized the referees in the wake of a 2-0 loss to Brazil in the Copa America semifinals, the Argentine captain was slapped with a three-game ban by the South American Football Confederation.

At last, in 2021 and 2022, Argentina and Messi found enough traction to bring home trophies that had long evaded them. First, the team won the Copa America—Argentina’s first major title in 28 years—in August 2021, besting Brazil in the final. Captain Messi tied for top goal scorer, alongside Colombia’s Luis Diaz, and was named player of the tournament. The next year, greater glory awaited at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

lionel messi kisses a gold trophy after his team won the 2022 fifa world cup, he wears an argentina national team jersey and holds the trophy in his hands

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Lionel Messi kisses the trophy after Argentina won the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

Argentina captured the World Cup trophy on December 18, 2022, after a thrilling game against France that ended in a penalty shootout. Messi was named the Best FIFA Men’s Player for a second time and broke the record for most World Cup appearances with 26 games. Six jerseys that Messi had worn during the victorious championship run later sold for more than $7.8 million at auction.

In fall 2023, Messi scored three goals in qualifying games for the 2026 World Cup. However, as he nears the twilight of the his career, the soccer legend has adopted a realistic attitude about his future. “As long as I feel that I am fine and I can continue contributing, I am going to do it. Today, the only thing I think about is getting to the Copa America well and being able to compete in it,” Messi said of the 2024 tournament. “Then time will tell if I am [at the World Cup] or not. I’m going to be at an age (39) that normally doesn’t allow me to play in the World Cup.”

Messi won FIFA’s World Player Trophy five times, including four consecutive wins between 2009 and 2012, and has collected its contemporary the Best FIFA Men’s Player three times, in 2019, 2022, and 2023.

The soccer legend has won Europe’s Ballon d’Or a record eight times. When he won the Ballon d’Or in October 2023, Messi became the first active MLS player to do so. He’s also won the European Golden Shoe for top scorer six times, two more than his nearest rival, Cristiano Ronaldo.

In 2023, Time magazine named Messi its Athlete of the Year, pointing to his remarkable impact on soccer’s growing popularity in the United States.

In July 2016, Messi suffered a blow off the soccer field when a Barcelona court found him and his father guilty of three counts of tax fraud. During a four-day trial, Messi and his father denied breaking the law and claimed they were unaware of any tax illegalities they had committed.

However, they were both sentenced to 21 months in prison. Under Spanish law, first offenses under two years are suspended so they did not go to jail, but Messi was ordered to pay a fine of 2 million euros. His father was required to pay 1.5 million euros.

lionel messi, his wife, and three youth sons walk on a soccer field, all are wearing argentina national team jerseys and messi is holding up the fifa world cup trophy, behind them is a crowd in the stands

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Lionel Messi with his wife, Antonella Roccuzzo, and their three children Ciro, Mateo, and Thiago

On June 30, 2017, Messi married Antonella Roccuzzo, his longtime girlfriend and the cousin of his best friend and fellow soccer player Lucas Scaglia. Messi met Roccuzzo in their hometown of Rosario when he was 5 years old. Their marriage, a civil ceremony dubbed by Argentina’s Clarín newspaper as the “wedding of the century,” was held at a luxury hotel in Rosario, with a number of fellow star soccer players and Colombian pop star Shakira on the 260-person guest list.

Messi and Roccuzzo have three children together: Thiago, born in November 2012; Mateo, born in September 2015; and Ciro, born in March 2018.

Although famously private off the field, Messi has quietly helped others in need. In 2007, he formed the Leo Messi Foundation to provide opportunities for disadvantaged youths. In early 2010, UNICEF named him a goodwill ambassador, with a focus on fighting for children’s rights across the globe.

  • Every time I start a year, I start with the objective of trying to achieve everything, without comparing it to how I’ve done in other seasons.
  • Whether it’s a friendly match, or for points, or a final, or any game—I play the same. I’m always trying to be my best, first for my team, for myself, for the fans and to try and win.
  • I am competitive, and I feel bad when we lose. You can see it in me when we’ve lost. I’m in a bad way. I don’t like to talk to anyone.
  • I made sacrifices by leaving Argentina, leaving my family to start a new life. I changed my friends, my people. Everything. But everything I did, I did for football, to achieve my dream.
  • I have fun like a child in the street. When the day comes when I’m not enjoying it, I will leave football.
  • I’ve never stopped being Argentine, and I’ve never wanted to. I feel very proud of being Argentine, even though I left there. I’ve been clear about this since I was very young, and I never wanted to change.
  • Something deep in my character allows me to take the hits and get on with trying to win. I’ve always had this ability to get up and get on with it.
  • I wasn’t teased as a child for my size. In fact, I think I had more affection because I was small.
  • I am lucky, I live by my passion, and there are a lot of people who work, doing what they don’t like and are badly paid for that.

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