Lionel Messi becomes Time's 'Athlete of the Year 2023'

Lionel Messi began playing football as a child, joining the youth squad of Newell's Old Boys

By Web Desk
December 05, 2023
Lionel Messi gestures during a football match. — AFP/File

Lionel Messi has been selected Time's Athlete of the Year for 2023 on Tuesday and the World Cup winner will be on the cover of their magazine as a result of winning the prize.

Messi continues to receive accolades. He receives the trophy in recognition of the football effect he has brought to the United States since joining Inter Miami.

The 36-year-old told TIME about his decision to leave FC Barcelona and reject a proposal from Saudi Arabia:

“The truth is that fortunately, I had several options on the table that were interesting, and I had to analyse them and think, even weigh them up with my family, before making the final decision to come to Miami."

“My first option was to return to Barcelona, but it was not possible. I tried to return, and it did not happen."

“It is also true that later I was thinking a lot about going to the Saudi league, where I know the country and they have created a very powerful competition that can become an important league in the near future. As the country’s tourism ambassador, it was a destination that attracted me, especially because I’ve enjoyed everything I have visited, because of how football is growing in the country and because of the effort they are putting into creating a top competition."

“It was Saudi Arabia or MLS, and both options seemed very interesting to me.”

David Beckham also commented on Lionel Messi's free-kick against Cruz Azul in his debut appearance for the club:

“I remember getting in the car on the way back, and I said to Victoria, ‘I’m not even sure I can drive home,’ You couldn’t have written it better.”

Messi began playing football as a child, joining the youth squad of Newell's Old Boys (a Rosario-based top-division football club) in 1995. Messi's extraordinary abilities drew the interest of major teams on both sides of the Atlantic.

Messi and his family moved to Barcelona when he was 13 years old, and he began playing for FC Barcelona's under-14 squad. He scored 21 goals in 14 games for the youth squad and swiftly advanced through the higher-level teams, making his FC Barcelona debut in a friendly match at the age of 16.

Messi's links to Argentina remained strong despite his dual citizenship and professional success in Spain, and he was a crucial player of different Argentine national teams beginning in 2005.

He was a member of Argentina's winning FIFA World Youth Championship squad in 2005, represented the country in the 2006 World Cup, and scored two goals in five matches as Argentina won gold in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

Argentina advanced to the World Cup quarterfinals in 2010, when they were ousted by Germany for the second time in World Cup competition.