How Lionel Messi has grown under Pep Guardiola at Barcelona - & it has nothing to do with hormones



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Posted Tuesday, June 14, 2011 by Goal.com

How Lionel Messi has grown under Pep Guardiola at Barcelona - & it has nothing to do with hormones

Lionel Messi has, quite literally, grown up at Barcelona. The brilliant Argentine forward is now the best player in the world, but he wouldn't be where he is today without the Catalan club.

Already a prospect as an 11-year-old, Messi was starring in the youth side at Newell's and was also impressing River Plate. But there was a problem: he was diagnosed with a hormone deficiency. At that time, Argentina had been plunged into a severe economic crisis and no clubs were willing to pay the $900 (£550) per month treatment.

Barcelona found out, and on discovering the player had relatives in nearby Lleida, a contract was quickly drawn up, and a serviette signed (that was the only paper then-Barca sporting director Carles Rexach had on him at the time). Messi came over to the Catalan capital on trial, scored five times in his first appearance, earned a professional contract and became the best there is. And he grew.

Doctors in Argentina had predicted Messi would only ever reach four feet seven inches (1.40m) tall, but treatment in Barcelona allowed the youngster to sprout to five feet seven (1.69m). With multi-million signings routinely made by the Catalan club, the small outlay spent on Messi's medical treatment may just be the best investment in the history of the famous institution.
Messi debuted for the first-team as a 17-year-old against Espanyol under Frank Rijkaard and immediately impressed. A fine goal against Albacete followed, and Barcelona's fans could sense they were witnessing something special.

And they were. But perhaps even they could not have imagined just how special a player Messi would become. The Argentine was brilliant in those early years under Rijkaard and his greatest goal remains the Maradona-esque solo effort against Getafe. Since the arrival of Pep Guardiola, however, the Argentine has hit new heights.

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