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50 People Who Matter 2011 | 50. Lionel Messi

Tidy striker.

He's not the world's most expensive footballer, nor its most imposing, nor even its most self-possessed, but Lionel Messi - 5ft 7in tall - is the best since Zinedine Zidane, and arguably since his fellow Argentinian Diego Maradona. He brought Calcutta to a standstill this month when he took part in an international friendly that generated an estimated £3m in broadcasting rights, sponsorship and ticket sales, unprecedented for football in India. Maradona won the World Cup and Messi will need to do the same to be truly considered his equal. Yet, for his club side, Barcelona, the statistics are astonishing. Aged 24, Messi has won 17 trophies, including the Champions League three times. And unlike Portugal's Ronaldo, it's unlikely the self-effacing Messi would suggest that opposing fans boo him because "I am rich, handsome and a great player".

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This article first appeared in the 26 September 2011 issue of the New Statesman, The fifty people who matter