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After making his senior debut in August 2005, Messi became the youngest Argentine to play and score in a FIFA World Cup during the 2006 edition, and reached the final of the 2007 Copa América, where he was named young player of the tournament.
As his father's health insurance covered only two years of growth hormone treatment, which cost at least $1,000 per month, Newell's agreed to contribute, but later reneged on their promise.
As the Messi family had relatives in Catalonia, they sought to arrange a trial with Barcelona in September 2000.
At age 13, he relocated to Spain to join Barcelona, who agreed to pay for his medical treatment.
After a fast progression through Barcelona's youth academy, Messi made his competitive debut aged 17 in October 2004.
Growing up in a tight-knit, football-loving family, "Leo" developed a passion for the sport from an early age, playing constantly with his older brothers, Rodrigo and Matías, and his cousins, Maximiliano and Emanuel Biancucchi, both of whom became professional footballers.
At the age of four years, he joined local club Grandoli, where he was coached by his father, though his earliest influence as a player came from his maternal grandmother, Celia, who accompanied him to training and matches.
Messi regained his best form during the 2014–15 campaign, breaking the all-time goalscoring records in both La Liga and the Champions League in November 2014, and led Barcelona to a historic second treble.
An Argentine international, Messi is his country's all-time leading goalscorer.
Lionel Andrés Messi was born on 24 June 1987 in Rosario, Santa Fe, the third of four children of Jorge Messi, a steel factory manager, and his wife Celia Cuccittini, who worked in a magnet manufacturing workshop.
On his father's side, he is of Italian and Spanish heritage, the great-grandson of immigrants from Marche and Catalonia, and on his mother's side, he is of primarily Italian descent.
At youth level, he won the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship, finishing the tournament with both the Golden Ball and Golden Shoe, and an Olympic gold medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics.