Lionel Messi: ‘I was born this way because God chose me’

Lionel Messi said he was “chosen by God” when talking about his footballing talent, adding he has tried to make the most of it.

Messi, who turned 37 on Monday, is competing with Argentina at the Copa América in the United States.

“It’s very clear to me that I was born like this because God chose me,” Messi told Argentina podcaster Juan Pablo Varsky.

“It was a gift he gave me. I tried to take advantage of it, I did everything possible to squeeze the most out of it. The truth is, although I did many things, I did nothing to become the player that I already was when I was little.”

Messi, who began his playing career at home club Newell’s Old Boys and joined Barcelona‘s youth team aged 13, admits he wasn’t aware just how special he was.

“From what was being said, I was always different,” the 2022 World Cup winner said. “People came to watch me. I didn’t realise it, but I began to understand that as I grew older. I don’t really know the moment when I realised it.

“When I was 3 or 4 years old, I was not aware of the World Cup and all the titles that were being played. I simply played because I loved the ball … it was my hobby. I spent all the time kicking [the ball] and looking for someone to play with. I was born with it. I loved soccer, like most Argentines, from a very young age. I always tried to have fun, like I did from day one.”

Messi is the most decorated football player of all time and won his 44th trophy after helping Inter Miami lift the 2023 Leagues Cup in August.

He has won a record eight Ballon d’Or awards.

Despite all the record and titles, Messi said he has learned a lot also from defeats.

The former Paris Saint-Germain star lost three straight finals with Argentina before lifting the Copa América in 2021 after defeating bitter rivals Brazil in the title game at Maracanã Stadium.

“I don’t like to relive them or review them, but in the long run it helps and makes you grow,” Messi said of his previous defeats.

No loss was more painful to Messi than the 4-1 reverse on penalties to Chile in the 2016 Copa América.

The pressure led Messi to quit, albeit briefly, from international duty.

“Without a doubt it was [most painful] because it was already the third final defeat in a row,” Messi said.

“We had had a very good Copa América in terms of play, reaching the final being far superior to the rest.

“In the final against Chile, although we did not have many clear chances, we were also superior in terms of play and we lost again on penalties.”

Messi and Argentina take on Chile in Tuesday’s Group A showdown.

Argentina began their title defence with a 2-0 win over Canada.