Lionel Messi was born in Rosario, Santa Fe, to parents Jorge Horacio Messi, a factory steel worker, and Celia María Cuccittini, a part-time cleaner. His paternal family originates from the Italian city of Ancona, from which his ancestor, Angelo Messi, emigrated to Argentina in 1883. He has two older brothers named Rodrigo and Matías as well as a sister named María Sol. At the age of five, Messi started playing football for Grandoli, a local club coached by his father Jorge. In 1995, Messi switched to Newell's Old Boys who were based in his home city Rosario. At the age of 11, he was diagnosed with a growth hormone deficiency. The traditional River Plate showed interest in Messi's progress, but did not have enough money to pay for treatment for his condition which cost $900 a month. Carles Rexach, the sporting director of FC Barcelona, had been made aware of his talent as Messi had relatives in Lleida, Catalonia, and Messi and his father were able to arrange a trial. Rexach, with no other paper at hand, offered Messi a contract written on a paper napkin. Barcelona offered to pay for Messi's medical bills if he was willing to move to Spain. Messi and his father moved to Barcelona where Messi enrolled in the club's youth academy.
Lionel Messi made his full international debut on 17 August 2005 against Hungary at the age of 18. He was substituted on during the 63rd minute, but was sent off on the 65th minute because the referee, Markus Merk, found he had headbutted defender Vilmos Vanczák, who was tugging Messi's shirt. The decision was contentious and Maradona even claimed the decision was pre-meditated. Messi returned to the team on 3 September in Argentina's 1–0 World Cup qualifier away defeat to Paraguay. Ahead of the match he had said "This is a re-debut. The first one was a bit short." He then started his first game for Argentina against Peru; after the match Pekerman described Messi as "a jewel".
On 28 March 2009, in a World Cup Qualifier against Venezuela, Messi wore the number 10 jersey for the first time with Argentina. This match was the first official match for Diego Maradona as the Argentina manager. Argentina won the match 4–0 with Messi opening the scoring.
On 17 November 2010, Messi scored a last-minute goal against South American rivals Brazil after an individual effort to help his team to a 1–0 win in the friendly match, which was held in Doha. This was the first time that he had scored against Brazil at senior level. Messi scored another last-minute goal on 9 February 2011 against Portugal in a penalty kick which he give his side a 2–1 victory in the friendly match, which was held in Geneva, Switzerland.
2006 World Cup
The injury that kept Lionel Messi from playing for two months at the end of the 2005–06 season jeopardised his presence in the 2006 World Cup. Nevertheless, Messi was selected in the Argentina squad for the tournament on 15 May 2006. He also played in the final match before the World Cup against the Argentine U-20 team for 15 minutes and a friendly match against Angola from the 64th minute. He witnessed Argentina's opening match victory against Ivory Coast from the substitute's bench. In the next match against Serbia and Montenegro, Messi became the youngest player to represent Argentina at a World Cup when he came on as a substitute for Maxi Rodríguez in the 74th minute. He assisted Hernán Crespo's goal within minutes of entering the game and also scored the final goal in the 6–0 victory, making him the youngest scorer in the tournament and the sixth youngest goalscorer in the history of the World Cup. Messi started in Argentina's following 0–0 draw against the Netherlands. In the following game against Mexico, Messi came on as a substitute in the 84th minute, with the score tied at 1–1. He appeared to score a goal, but it was ruled offside with Argentina needing a late goal in extra time to proceed. Coach José Pekerman left Messi on the bench during the quarter-final match against Germany, which they lost 4–2 on a penalty shootout.
2007 Copa América
Lionel Messi played his first game in the 2007 Copa América on 29 June 2007, when Argentina defeated United States 4–1 in the first game. In this game, he showed his capabilities as a playmaker. He set up a goal for fellow striker Hernán Crespo and had numerous shots on target. Tevez came on as a substitute for Messi in the 79th minute and scored minutes later.
His second game was against Colombia, in which he won a penalty that Crespo converted to tie the game at 1–1. He also played a part in Argentina's second goal as he was fouled outside the box, which allowed Juan Roman Riquelme to score from a freekick, and increase Argentina's lead to 3–1. The final score of the game was 4–2 in Argentina's favor and guaranteed them a spot in the tournament's quarterfinals.
2008 Summer Olympics
Messi in the semi-final against Brazil at the 2008 Olympics
Having barred Messi from playing for Argentina in the 2008 Olympics, Barcelona agreed to release him after he held talks with newly appointed coach Josep Guardiola. He joined the Argentina squad and scored the first goal in a 2–1 victory over Ivory Coast. He then scored the opening goal and assisted Ángel di María in the second to help his side to a 2–1 extra-time win against the Netherlands. He also featured in Argentina's match against rivals Brazil, in which Argentina took a 3–0 victory, thus advancing to the final. In the gold medal match, Messi again assisted Di María for the only goal in a 1–0 victory over Nigeria.
2010 World Cup
Messi played the entire game on Argentina's opening match in the 2010 World Cup, the 1–0 victory against Nigeria. He had several opportunities to score but was repeatedly denied by Vincent Enyeama. Messi started in Argentina's following 4–1 win against Korea Republic; he participated in all of the goals of his team and helped Gonzalo Higuaín score a hat-trick. On the third and last group stage match Messi captained during Argentina's 2–0 win over Greece, again being the centrepoint of Argentina's play and was voted man of the match.
At the Round of 16 he assisted Carlos Tévez for the first goal in a 3–1 win against Mexico. The referee awarded that goal even though it was a clear offside. The World Cup ended for Argentina with a 4–0 loss against Germany in the quarter-finals.
Lionel Messi was nominated in ten player shortlist for Golden Ball award by FIFA Technical Study Group. The group identified Messi with words: "Outstanding in his pace and creativity for his team, dribbling, shooting, passing – spectacular and efficient".
2011 Copa América
Messi took part in the Copa América in Argentina, where he failed to score a goal but notched three assists. He was selected man-of-the-match in matches against Bolivia (1–1) and Costa Rica (3–0). Argentina were eliminated in the quarter-finals in a penalty shoot-out against Uruguay (1–1 a.e.t.), with Messi scoring as the first penalty taker.