He scored one goal and assisted two as Argentina beat United States 4-0 in the Copa America semifinal on Wednesday. A fan ran on to the pitch in the same match, bowed down to him and hugged him as if his life depended on it. This is the magic of Lionel Messi.
As the Barcelona star turns 29 today, here are ten things to know about him:
1) 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.
2) Led Argentina to the title at the 2005 World Youth Championship, scoring two penalties in a 2-1 victory over Nigeria in the final.
3) Argentina won a gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games with Messi at its helm.
4) Played a key role as Barcelona clinched six trophies in the calendar year of 2009, including the Champions League, La Liga, the King’s Cup and the Club World Cup.
5) Won four consecutive World Player of the Year awards.
6) After a season disrupted by injury, captained Argentina to the final of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, where they lost 1-0 to Germany. Messi, who scored four goals at the finals, won the Golden Ball award for the tournament’s best player.
7) Equalled the Champions League scoring record of 71 goals set by former Real Madrid and Schalke 04 forward Raul when he struck twice against Ajax at the end of 2014. Has since been overtaken by Real Madrid rival Cristiano Ronaldo.
8) Nicknamed ‘The Flea’, he dedicates every goal he scores to his grandmother who encouraged him to become a footballer.
9) Scored 495 goals and appeared for 500 matches in La Liga for Barcelona.
10) Has recently been awarded the 100th cap for Argentina and became his country’s highest scorer with 55 international goals.