There isn’t a football fan in the world who hasn’t heard of Lionel Messi.
In fact, there are probably very few people across the globe who haven’t heard of the little Argentinian magician, football fans or not, such is his fame.
Those who are familiar with football will know Messi suffered from a growth deficiency, which probably explains why there are lots of questions on the internet about his height, including how tall was Messi at 19?
Here we take a look at the medical condition that could have deprived us of one of the greatest players ever and chart his growth along the way!
So let’s dive in.
How Tall Was Messi at 19?
At the age of 19 Lionel Messi was 5 feet 7 inches tall (170cm). This was to be his final height, but it could have been much different. At the age of 11 he was 4’4 and was diagnosed with Growth Hormone Deficiency. He was told without treatment, in the form of monthly hormone injections, he would never grow to more than 4’7.
Lionel Messi’s Early Years
Lionel Messi was born in Rosario, the largest city in the central Argentinian province of Santa Fe, on 24 June 1987.
It became obvious early on that beneath the unassuming facade, the young boy had something special.
Normally quiet and shy, put a ball at his feet and he came alive, doing things that no other boy his age could do.
Messi recalls getting his first football: “I got given my first football when I was very young: three, maybe, or four,” he said. “It was a present and from then on it was the only present I ever wanted, Christmas, birthday or whatever: a ball.”
When he was four years old Messi went to watch his brothers play at the local club Grandoli. As the team prepared for their game they found themselves a player short.
Coach Salvador Aparicio looked up and saw Messi with his ball. He was tiny, but he had no other option and needed someone to fill the empty position.
They never looked back.
“He had something since he was born, it was stunning what they saw him do at the age of four,” David Trevez, the club’s president said.
“He was doing the kinds of things that he does today but then the ball came up to his knees it was incredible.”
Joining Newell’s Old Boys
In 1996, when he was almost nine years old Messi joined Newell’s Old Boys, the club he had always supported.
He was the shining star of a youth team known as ‘the 1987 Machine’, named as that was the year of birth of all the players.
He scored over 500 goals in his six years at the club, and the 1987 Machine lost just one game in that time.
However, it was during this period that concerns about Messi’s diminutive stature grew.
In 1996, when Messi joined Newell’s Old Boys he was 4’4. He was the smallest player in his age group, but he wasn’t drastically smaller than his compatriots.
Two years later, at the age of 11, he hadn’t grown at all and now the height difference was becoming noticeable.
Newell’s Old Boys referred him to endocrinologist Diego Schwarzstein and Messi was diagnosed with Growth Hormone Deficiency (GHD).
GHD is a condition caused by a hormone deficiency and affects as few as 1 in 10,000 children.
Without treatment, Schwarzstein told him, Messi would not grow any taller than 4’7.
Thankfully for Messi and all footballer lovers out there, there was treatment available.
Daily injections of a growth hormone enable those affected by GHD to grow to a normal height.
And so Lionel Messi began a routine of daily injections, something he recalled years later: “I injected my legs once every night” he said. “I started at 12 years old. It was not something that left an impression on me.”
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However, the diagnosis of GHD was just the start of the journey for Messi.
Whilst there was treatment available, paying for the treatment was the next stumbling block.
The treatment was reasonably new, having only been available commercially for 20 years, and the cost of $1500 per month was unaffordable in the long term for Messi’s parents Jorge and Celia, a factory worker and a part-time cleaner.
The family managed a couple of payments, as did Newell’s Old Boys, but with the club aware of his talent but sceptical as to whether the hormone treatment actually would make a substantial difference to Messi’s height they were unwilling to make a long-term investment.
Trial at Barcelona
With the family wanting to continue the treatment, and aware of Messi’s potential, they managed to arrange a trial for him with Barcelona, where they had family.
Messi was 13, and the trial was a pivotal moment not just for his football career, but for his life.
He scored five goals, and all it took was a couple of minutes for the club to make a decision on him, as Carles Rexach, Barcelona’s technical director at the time recalls: “In two minutes, I saw his speed, his skill and decided we would sign him.”
Such was Barca’s desperation to sign Mess, a contract was drawn up on a napkin at dinner, part of which included the club agreeing to pay for his treatment.
So Messi joined Barca’s famed ‘La Masia’ youth academy, alongside players such as Cesc Fabregas And Gerard Pique.
There was still some opposition from board members at Barcelona though. They resented paying his medical expenses, which were more than any player at their academy earned, and thought Messi, with his fragile frame and short stature, would never play at the very top level.
Of course they were soon proved wrong.
And the Rest is History…
Just before his 15th birthday Messi completed his treatment, and continued to grow for a couple more years. He now stands 5’7 tall, exactly average for an Argentinian male and a foot taller than the height Dr. Schwarsztein said he would have been without the hormone treatment.
Messi joined Barca’s U-14 squad in March 2001 and in his first full season he scored 36 goals in 30 games and was part of a side that won a treble.
Such was Messi’s talent that he made his debut for Barcelona’s first team on 16 November 2003, aged 16 years and 4 months in a friendly against Jose Mourinho’s Porto.
This was before he actually made his debut for Barcelona C team, which came on 29 November 2003.
In February 2004 he signed his first professional contract with a buy-out clause of €30 million. This buyout clause increased to €80 million a month later when he made his debut for Barcelona B (below).
By now the whole club was aware of his prodigious talent and in October 2004 senior players told manager Frank Rijkaard to promote him to the first team.
On 16 October 2004, he became the youngest player to play for Barcelona in an official match. He was 17 years, three months, and 22 days old when he came on against Espanyol.
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He added another record to his collection in May 2005, scoring his first goal and becoming, at the time, the youngest player to score for the club.
That was to be the first goal of many.
By the time he left the club in 2021 he had scored 672 goals, delivered 266 assists, and set many records that are unlikely to ever be broken.
How Tall Was Messi at 13?
By 13 it is thought Lionel Messi was 5 feet tall.
How Tall Was Messi at 15?
By 15, Lionel Messi was estimated to be around 5 feet 3 inches tall.
By 19 Lionel Messi had reached 5’7 and was not to grow any further.
Although he is still considered fairly short by many it was, at the time, the average height for an Argentinian male and a foot taller than the height he was expected to reach without the growth hormone treatment he started at the age of 11.
Although shorter in stature, he has made his mark on the world of football and will be remembered as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, players ever.
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