World Cup 2010: the key players

Lionel Messi

The best is almost certainly still to come so far as Lionel Messi: The Book is concerned.

Luca Caioli must be feeling pleased with his publishers, inasmuch as the release here of his biography on the Argentine maestro, which appeared in the shops in January, may have come at just the right moment after Messi reinforced his reputation as the world's best player with that magnificent performance against Arsenal.

Messi: The Inside Story of the Boy Who Became a Legend (Corinthian) can expect a good run between now and the World Cup finals as Argentina prepare for a tournament in which they will carry great expectations despite a bumpy qualification.

But at 22 Messi has most of his career still ahead of him and he will be fighting off suitors when he decides the time is right to tell his own version of the story.

Caioli, an Italian journalist based in Spain who has written similar life stories of Fernando Torres and Ronaldinho, tracks Messi's life back to Rosario, an inland port city of more than one million people to the north-west of Buenos Aires.

Originally published in Spanish, the story explains how Messi's move to Spain at the age of 13 came about, detailing how the cost of the treatment he needed for a growth hormone deficiency played a role in his joining Barcelona rather than the River Plate club at home.

It takes the reader through Messi's sensational progress with the Catalan club, from his debut at the age of 17 through to his 38-goal season in 2008-09, when Barcelona won the Coppa del Rey (Spanish Cup), La Liga and the Champions League.

The author's treatment of his subject is benevolent throughout, which may suggest that it lacks balance, but given that Messi, with his cheekily innocent looks and boyish enthusiasm on the field, is so widely admired right now, perhaps that doesn't matter too much.

It is a little ironic, though, that the reverence Messi has earned in Europe is not quite matched at home in Argentina, where critics in the media have questioned his commitment to the national team, even dubbing him 'El Catalan'.

It is true that he has yet to reach a level playing in the blue and white of Argentina that compares with the brilliance that Arsenal encountered in Nou Camp.  Conspiracy theorists have even speculated that Diego Maradona, Argentina's coach, might be suppressing Messi's talent so as to preserve his own standing as the country's greatest ever player.

If he can leave a legacy for the World Cup in South Africa, however, all such notions will be dispelled.

Not everyone knows... that Messi was sent off for elbowing after only two minutes on the field when he made his international debut as a substitute against Hungary in August 2005; that he was given the coveted 'number 10' shirt for Maradona's first game as national coach... and that he has a Chinese language blog.

Buy Messi: The Inside Story of the Boy Who Became a Legend direct from this site.

Go to the Sports Bookshelf Shop for more on Lionel Messi and more by Luca Caioli.

To see Messi's Chinese blog, go to http://622001160.qzone.qq.com.

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