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Lionel Messi is one of the premier athletes in professional soccer on a global scale. The Inter Miami player has been competing professionally since he was just a teenager.

Messi’s list of accomplishments puts him up with some of the greatest to ever play the game. It might come as a surprise to learn that the soccer superstar’s career was almost over before it began.

Lionel Messi’s diagnosis

According to Business Insider, Lionel Messi is the son of a factory worker and a cleaner. Growing up in Argentina, Messi began playing soccer when he was just a little boy. His talent was noticeable from a very early age. It was clear soccer was the right path for him. However, when Messi was just 11 years old, his soccer dreams took a hit.

Messi was diagnosed with growth hormone deficiency (GHD), so his growth was stunted. Without proper treatment, he was unlikely to be able to pursue his dreams. While local club River Plate was interested in signing him, they were unwilling to pay for his medical treatments. 

What is GHD? 

According to the National Organization for Rare Disordersgrowth hormone deficiency is an extremely rare disorder that stems from inadequate secretion of growth hormone from the anterior pituitary gland. As a result, those who have it may grow at a slower rate than others, and their entire maturation process can be delayed. 

Children who have GHD are usually born at a normal size. The condition may not be immediately noticeable until the years when they should be growing a lot. This is how Lionel Messi went 11 years without a diagnosis. The disease can have more advanced effects, but most cases can be treated with human growth hormone (HGH). Messi needed this when he found out he had growth hormone deficiency. 

Barcelona gave Lionel Messi a chance

Lionel Messi was eventually given an opportunity to pursue his soccer career and get the medical treatment he needed. HGH may have certain unfortunate connotations in sports, but it was a legitimate medical need for the athlete at that age.

Barcelona decided to give him a trial run. Then coach Carles Rexach offered Messi a contract on a napkin, including payments for his treatments.


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Messi took his playing career seriously in Barcelona, doing what he loved most with the treatments he needed. He was, after all, in one of the most storied youth programs in the world. With a second chance, he didn’t want anything to take him away from his dreams of making it as a professional. 

“I made a lot of sacrifices by leaving Argentina, leaving my family to start a new life,” Messi said, according to Biography Online. “But everything I did, I did for football, to achieve my dream. That’s why I didn’t go out partying or do a lot of other things.”