Argentina 2014 FIFA World Cup Squad: Player-by-Player Guide

Daniel Edwards@@DanEdwardsGoalFeatured ColumnistMay 13, 2014

Argentina 2014 FIFA World Cup Squad: Player-by-Player Guide

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    Cesar Olmedo/Associated Press

    Competition has been fierce for places in the Argentine squad. The Albiceleste are tipped as one of the favourites for the 2014 World Cup, and plenty of quality players have been left out in the cold by coach Alejandro Sabella. 

    But who did make the cut for the Seleccion? The 30 men who make up the provisional list of call-ups are noted here, along with their vital statistics and what can be expected of them in the upcoming festival of international football. 

Sergio Romero

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    RICH SCHULTZ/Associated Press

    Name: Sergio Romero

    Date of Birth: 22 February 1987

    Birthplace: Bernardo de Irigoyen

    Position: Goalkeeper

    Caps: 45

    Club: Monaco

    Brief Bio: A lack of playing time at Monaco has led some to criticise Romero's place in the squad. But Sabella has always had faith in his goalkeeper, who, on his best days, can rival most No. 1s in the world for shot-stopping ability, if not for command of his area at dead-ball situations. 

    Quick-Hit Fact: Ironically given his ample height, the 6'4" Romero's nickname is Chiquito (Tiny). As a child, he was dwarfed by his two basketball-playing brothers, who gave him the rather unjust tag. 

    Quick-Hit Stat: An otherwise undistinguished spell with AZ was marked by a run of 955 minutes without conceding a goal, just 107 from the Dutch league record. 

Mariano Andujar

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    Name: Mariano Andujar

    Date of Birth: 30 July 1983

    Birthplace: Buenos Aires

    Position: Goalkeeper

    Caps: 8

    Club: Catania

    Brief Bio: He has been with Sabella from the beginning, playing a key part in Estudiantes' first Libertadores triumph for 39 years. He's had few opportunities to star for Argentina, but is a dependable deputy for Romero. 

    Quick-Hit Fact: He's the tallest man in the Argentina list at 1.94 metres (6'4.5"). 

    Quick-Hit Stat: Andujar helped Estudiantes win the Copa Libertadores in 2009, setting a tournament record of 800 minutes without conceding a goal.

Agustin Orion

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    Victor R. Caivano/Associated Press

    Name: Agustin Orion

    Date of Birth: 26 July 1981

    Birthplace: Ramos Mejia

    Position: Goalkeeper

    Caps: 3

    Club: Boca Juniors

    Brief Bio: While most Argentine players seek fame and fortune abroad, Orion has played his entire career in his home nation. Orion is an accomplished keeper, and while he is unlikely to play much part at the World Cup, he fully deserves the call-up. 

    Quick-Hit Fact: He's won Argentine championships with three different clubs: San Lorenzo, Estudiantes and Boca Juniors. 

    Quick-Hit Stat: Orlon is one of five players in the squad playing their club football in Argentina. 

Pablo Zabaleta

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    Kirsty Wigglesworth/Associated Press

    Name: Pablo Zabaleta

    Date of Birth: 16 January 1985

    Birthplace: Buenos Aires

    Position: Right-back

    Caps: 36

    Club: Manchester City

    Brief Bio: A fixture on the right side of defence, the Manchester City star is also adept at switching flanks. Zabaleta is solid in defence while getting forward often enough to contribute in Argentina's offensive efforts. 

    Quick-Hit Fact: He captained Argentina to their Under-20 World Cup victory in 2005 and was also a member of the 2008 Olympic gold-medal team.

    Quick-Hit Stat: With 11 yellow cards, Zabaleta was this season's most booked player in the Premier League. 

Gabriel Mercado

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    Natacha Pisarenko/Associated Press

    Name: Gabriel Mercado

    Date of Birth: 18 March 1987

    Birthplace: Puerto Madryn

    Position: Right-back

    Caps: 1

    Club: River Plate

    Brief Bio: Without a doubt, he was the biggest surprise of all Argentina's 30 call-ups. But Mercado has deserved success due to an excellent season at River, which could well end with the Millonario lifting the title. 

    Quick-Hit Fact: Mercado made his one and only appearance for the national team under Diego Maradona during a friendly against Jamaica in 2010. 

    Quick-Hit Stat: He was part of a strong Racing Club academy contingent that won the 2007 Under-20 World Cup along with Sergio Romero, Claudio Yacob, Matias Sanchez and Maxi Moralez. 

Federico Fernandez

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    Name: Federico Fernandez

    Date of Birth: 21 February 1989

    Birthplace: Tres Algarrobos

    Position: Central defence

    Caps: 24

    Club: Napoli

    Brief Bio: In spite of a lack of playing time at Napoli, Fernandez was entrusted a place in the Argentina defence alongside Ezequiel Garay and quickly struck up an intelligent partnership. His prowess at set pieces both defending and attacking gives him an important place in the starting XI. 

    Quick-Hit Fact: A prospective move to Napoli in 2010 was delayed for six months due to difficulties in securing an EU passport. 

    Quick-Hit Stat: Fernandez's debut with Getafe was a game to forget; the team was thrashed 6-1 by Barcelona, with international team-mate Lionel Messi getting one of the goals. 

Ezequiel Garay

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    Armando Franca/Associated Press

    Name: Ezequiel Garay

    Date of Birth: 10 October 1986

    Birthplace: Rosario

    Position: Central defence

    Caps: 18

    Club: Benfica

    Brief Bio: Garay has matured into a fine defender at Benfica, playing a key part in the team that this year lifted the league title and has reached the final of the Europa League. That form is why Garay has become Alejandro Sabella's first-choice centre-back. 

    Quick-Hit Fact: He's another player in the squad who played in Argentina's trophy-winning age-group sides.

    Quick-Hit Stat: He made his debut for the Albiceleste in August 2007, aged just 20. 

Marcos Rojo

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    Francisco Seco/Associated Press

    Name: Marcos Rojo

    Date of Birth: 20 March 1990

    Birthplace: La Plata

    Position: Left-back

    Caps: 20

    Club: Sporting Lisbon

    Brief Bio: Rojo is perhaps the most questionable member of the Argentine first team. But Sabella has backed him throughout, and although his defending is not the best, Rojo combines well with Angel Di Maria going forward on the left. 

    Quick-Hit Fact: He was a Copa Libertadores winner with Sabella when Estudiantes triumphed in 2010. 

    Quick-Hit Stat: The defender's four goals in this year's Primeira Liga was a personal best, as Rojo helped Sporting to second in the table. 

Hugo Campagnaro

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    Marco Vasini/Associated Press

    Name: Hugo Campagnaro

    Date of Birth: 27 June 1980

    Birthplace: Cordoba

    Position: Central defence

    Caps: 13

    Club: Inter Milan

    Brief Bio: The defender arrived late to top-class football, but forms a valuable part of the Albiceleste setup both as extra cover in middle of defence and as Pablo Zabaleta's deputy on the right. 

    Quick-Hit Fact: He survived a road accident during a 2011 holiday in Argentina in which three people, including his best friend, were killed.

    Quick-Hit Stat: Just over a month away from his 34th birthday, Campagnaro is the oldest member of the Argentina squad. 

Jose Basanta

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    Matthias Schrader/Associated Press

    Name: Jose Basanta

    Date of Birth: 3 April 1984

    Birthplace: Tres Sargentos

    Positions: Central defence, full-back

    Caps: 8

    Club: Monterrey

    Brief Bio: Basanta has entered the Argentina setup as a utility defender, filling in both on the left-hand side and in the middle.

    Quick-Hit Fact: Sabella first called him up to play away to Bolivia at high altitude in La Paz a year ago, given his experience at his Mexican club and against other teams in that league.

    Quick-Hit Stat: He has played in the FIFA Club World Cup three times with Monterrey, with his diligent defending making him a favourite with the Rayados faithful. 

Nicolas Otamendi

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    Ricardo Mazalan/Associated Press

    Name: Nicolas Otamendi

    Date of Birth: 12 February 1988

    Birthplace: Buenos Aires

    Position: Central defence

    Caps: 16

    Club: Atletico Mineiro

    Brief Bio: Considered one of the best young defenders in Argentina, Otamendi's development was held back by a torrid time in South Africa four years ago. He has recovered from that blow, and his aerial ability is an added point in his favour. 

    Quick-Hit Fact: He endured a World Cup to forget as a youngster in 2010, when playing out of position at right-back, he was tortured by Germany's Thomas Mueller in a 4-0 drubbing. 

    Quick-Hit Stat: Scored the first goal of the Sabella era in a 1-0 win over Venezuela in a friendly in Kolkatta in September 2011.

Martin Demichelis

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    Kirsty Wigglesworth/Associated Press

    Name: Martin Demichelis

    Date of Birth: 20 December 1980

    Birthplace: Justiniano Posse

    Position: Centre-back

    Caps: 37

    Club: Manchester City

    Brief Bio: Brought back from the international dead, Demichelis' decent spell with Manchester City and a shiny Premier League medal appears to have convinced Sabella there is still life in the veteran defender. 

    Quick-Hit Fact: He has not played for the national team since 2011, when a disastrous error allowed Marcelo Martins to open the scoring for Bolivia during a 1-1 qualifying draw in Buenos Aires. 

    Quick-Hit Stat: Demichelis is one of three Manchester City players in the squad along with Pablo Zabaleta and Sergio Aguero. 

Lisando Lopez

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    Natacha Pisarenko/Associated Press

    Name: Lisandro Lopez

    Date of Birth: 1 September 1989

    Birthplace: Villa Constitucion

    Position: Centre-back

    Caps: 4

    Club: Getafe

    Brief Bio: His incredible ability in the air is Lopez's greatest strength as a defender, both in his own box and going up for set pieces. On loan at Getafe from Benfica, the youngster is widely rated as Argentina's best prospect in the middle of defence. 

    Quick-Hit Fact: He helped Arsenal de Sarandi win their first-ever Primera Division title in 2012, partnering Nicolas Burdisso's brother, Guillermo, in the middle. 

    Quick-Hit Stat: Lopez scored an impressive 17 goals in 119 games for Arsenal, a record of almost one every six matches. 

Javier Mascherano

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    Emilio Morenatti/Associated Press

    Name: Javier Mascherano 

    Date of Birth: 8 June 1984 

    Birthplace: San Lorenzo

    Position: Defensive midfield

    Caps: 95

    Club: Barcelona

    Brief Bio: Mascherano recovered from the blow of losing the captaincy to Lionel Messi in the only way he knows: with consummate professionalism and dedication. He covers a sometimes suspect defence and recovers countless loose balls to get his team moving on the counter. 

    Quick-Hit Fact: He has won league titles with River Plate, Corinthians and Barca.

    Quick-Hit Stat: Masche's 95 appearances make him the second-most capped midfielder in Argentina history behind Diego Simeone. 

Fernando Gago

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    Victor R. Caivano/Associated Press

    Name: Fernando Gago

    Date of Birth: 10 April 1986

    Birthplace: Ciudadela

    Position: Central midfield

    Caps: 46

    Club: Boca Juniors

    Brief Bio: If he can stay fit, Gago is a key man for the Albiceleste. His World Cup preparation will be hampered by injury, but he has a range and quality of passing unmatched in the nation's midfield. 

    Quick-Hit Fact: He's married to former professional tennis player Gisela Dulko.

    Quick-Hit Stat: He has played just 20 club games for Boca in the 2013/14 period.  

Lucas Biglia

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    Alessandra Tarantino/Associated Press

    Name: Lucas Biglia

    Date of Birth: 30 January 1986

    Birthplace: Mercedes

    Position: Central midfielder

    Caps: 17

    Club: Lazio

    Brief Bio: A player whose stock has risen massively in the last three years, Biglia is known as a reliable performer in the middle and will deputise for Mascherano during the World Cup. 

    Quick-Hit Fact: He lifted the 2005 Under-20 World Cup along with current team-mates Messi, Aguero, Zabaleta, Garay and Gago. 

    Quick-Hit Stat: Biglia has won four titles in six years in Belgium with Anderlecht.  

Ever Banega

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    Matilde Campodonico/Associated Press

    Name: Ever Banega

    Date of Birth: 29 June 1988

    Birthplace: Rosario

    Position: Newell's Old Boys

    Caps: 24

    Club: Newell's Old Boys

    Brief Bio: He has struggled desperately with injury and in finding his best form in a loan spell with Newell's. At his best, he's an intelligent distributor who adds calm and precision in the middle of the park. 

    Quick-Hit Fact: Banega once broke his ankle and bones in his leg after being run over by his own car at a petrol station. 

    Quick-Hit Stat: He scored his first international goal in the altitude of La Paz, helping Argentina to a 1-1 draw away to Bolivia in 2013. 

Augusto Fernandez

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    Natacha Pisarenko/Associated Press

    Name: Augusto Fernandez

    Date of Birth: 10 April 1986

    Birthplace: Pergamino

    Position: Midfield

    Caps: 7

    Club: Celta Vigo

    Brief Bio: An attack-minded midfielder who can play centrally or on either flank, Fernandez is intelligent with the ball and a real threat around the penalty area. 

    Quick-Hit Fact: He was previously owned by Pini Zahavi of Tevez and Mascherano fame. 

    Quick-Hit Stat: Fernandez has lifted the Argentine Primera Division title with two teams, River Plate (2008) and Velez Sarsfield (2011). 

Jose Sosa

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    Name: Jose Sosa

    Date of Birth: 19 June 1985

    Birthplace: Carcarana

    Position: Attacking midfielder

    Caps: 19

    Club: Atletico Madrid

    Brief Bio: Often underestimated as a footballer, Sosa has shown his worth as part of Atletico's wonderful 2013/14 campaign. Versatile enough to play either out wide or through the middle, the Santa Fe native also excels in his dead-ball execution. 

    Quick-Hit Fact: He has a long relationship with Sabella, having played under the coach at Estudiantes after coming back from Bayern Munich.

    Quick-Hit Stat: In his entire career, Sosa has only been red-carded on one occasion.

Maxi Rodriguez

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    Luis Benavides/Associated Press

    Name: Maxi Rodriguez

    Date of Birth: 2 January 1981

    Birthplace: Rosario

    Positions: Attacking midfielder, striker

    Caps: 52

    Club: Newell's Old Boys

    Brief Bio: An old mainstay of the Argentina squad, Rodriguez has been revitalised since moving back to hometown club Newell's Old Boys. 

    Quick-Hit Fact: Maxi's spectacular goal against Mexico in the 2006 World Cup was voted strike of the tournament in an unofficial FIFA poll. 

    Quick-Hit Stat: This will be the forward's third World Cup after playing in 2006 and 2010. Lionel Messi, Rodrigo Palacio and Maxi are the only survivors from the Germany tournament team eight years ago. 

Fabian Rinaudo

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    Carmelo Imbesi/Associated Press

    Name: Fabian Rinaudo

    Date of Birth: 15 May 1987

    Birthplace: Armstrong

    Position: Defensive midfielder

    Caps: 4

    Club: Catania

    Brief Bio: With Gago's fitness still in doubt, Rinaudo was surprisingly drafted in to provide extra cover in the middle of the pitch. A newcomer to the squad, he's still remembered as a feisty competitor during his time with Gimnasia. 

    Quick-Hit Fact: Rinaudo's hometown, Armstrong, was once a Jesuit colony before passing into the hands of the Central Argentine Railway and being named after company pioneer, British national Thomas Armstrong. 

    Quick-Hit Stat: He's been unlucky enough to suffer relegation with two clubs: in 2011 with Gimnasia and this year with Catania. 

Angel Di Maria

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    Andres Kudacki/Associated Press

    Name: Angel Di Maria

    Date of Birth: 14 February 1988

    Birthplace: Rosario

    Position: Winger

    Caps: 45

    Club: Real Madrid

    Brief Bio: Many tipped Di Maria for a Real Madrid exit when Gareth Bale arrived, but the left-footed star saw off the threat and made his own place in the Spanish giants. His success is a tribute not just to his dynamic, all-action talent down the flank, but also the determination that he replicates whenever he pulls on the Argentina shirt. 

    Quick-Hit Fact: The winger's nickname, Fideo (Noodle), refers to his wiry physique. 

    Quick-Hit Stat: Di Maria played a key role in both of Argentina's most recent international triumphs. Three goals in 2007 helped the under-20 team lift the World Cup, while a year later his audacious chip downed Nigeria in the Olympic Games' gold-medal match. 

Ricardo Alvarez

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    Antonio Calanni/Associated Press

    Name: Ricardo Alvarez

    Date of Birth: 12 April 1988

    Birthplace: Buenos Aires

    Position: Attacking midfielder

    Caps: 5

    Club: Inter Milan

    Brief Bio: An attacking choice for midfield, Alvarez is excellent with the ball at feet and slowly establishing himself as an important player in the Inter setup. 

    Quick-Hit Fact: He had to recover from a serious cruciate ligament injury just after breaking into the Velez Sarsfield first team, setting back his development.  

    Quick-Hit Stat: Alvarez debuted under Sabella, making his first appearance in the coach's bow against Venezuela in 2011. 

Enzo Perez

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    Paulo Duarte/Associated Press

    Name: Enzo Perez

    Date of Birth: 22 February 1986

    Birthplace: Maipu

    Position: Centre midfielder

    Caps: 5

    Club: Getafe

    Brief Bio: A fixture of the Estudiantes team that excelled under Sabella, Perez's versatility and sparkling form for Benfica were decisive in earning the midfielder a call-up. 

    Quick-Hit Fact: Perez will miss Benfica's Europa League final after picking up a red card against Juventus in the semi. 

    Quick-Hit Stat: He has the distinction of winning both Argentina's top divisions, lifting the Nacional B title with Godoy Cruz in 2005/06 and leading Estudiantes to the 2010 Clausura. 

Lionel Messi

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    Alberto Saiz/Associated Press

    Name: Lionel Messi

    Date of Birth: 24 June 1987

    Birthplace: Rosario

    Position: Playmaker/striker

    Caps: 84

    Club: Barcelona

    Brief Bio: Argentina's captain and the driving force behind the team, Messi has broken every record going in Barcelona. His home fans are expectant as the Albiceleste try to break a World Cup drought of 28 years. 

    Quick-Hit Fact: Messi owes his somewhat unusual name to his father, who named him Lionel after singer Lionel Richie. 

    Quick-Hit Stat: The all-time second-highest scorer for his country with 37 goals, Messi is 19 behind Gabriel Batistuta.

Gonzalo Higuain

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    Gennaro Giorgio/Associated Press

    Name: Gonzalo Higuain

    Date of Birth: 10 December 1987

    Birthplace: Brest, France

    Position: Striker

    Caps: 36

    Club: Napoli

    Brief Bio: He's a powerful, direct striker, but also more than capable of turning on the skill. Higuain's goals formed the backbone of the Argentina qualifying campaign, and he has proved a worthy successor to international centre-forward legends like Batistuta and Kempes. 

    Quick-Hit Fact: Higuain was born in France, where father Jorge represented Stade Brestois and was courted by Les Bleus before opting for Argentina. 

    Quick-Hit Stat: He became only the third player to score a hat-trick for Argentina in a World Cup, after Guillermo Stabile and Gabriel Batistuta, with his triple against South Korea in 2010.

Sergio Aguero

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    Rui Vieira/Associated Press

    Name: Sergio Aguero

    Date of Birth: 2 June 1988

    Birthplace: Quilmes

    Position: Striker

    Caps: 50

    Club: Manchester City

    Brief Bio: A tricky, confident forward with the ball at feet who poses more and more of a threat in front of goal as the years go by, Aguero has matured admirably since moving to Manchester and is well-established as an almost automatic choice in the Argentina forward line. 

    Quick-Hit Fact: Aguero is the father of Diego Maradona's first grandson, Benjamin.

    Quick-Hit Stat: Kun was the youngest-ever player to debut in the Argentine Primera Division with Independiente, making his bow at at the age of 15 years, one month and three days. 

Rodrigo Palacio

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    Luca Bruno/Associated Press

    Name: Rodrigo Palacio

    Date of Birth: 5 February 1982

    Birthplace: Bahia Blanca, Spain

    Position: Striker

    Caps: 21

    Club: Inter Milan

    Brief Bio: After years in the international wilderness, Palacio was called up by Alejandro Sabella during the qualifying campaign to give Argentina a more cerebral attacking option off the bench.

    Quick-Hit Fact: Jose Ramon, the forward's father, was also a professional footballer. Born in Spain, Palacio moved to Argentina from Cantabria and represented Olimpo for almost 10 years, making more than 300 appearances. 

    Quick-Hit Stat: It has taken Palacio no less than nine years to accumulate 21 international caps, after making his debut in 2005. 

Ezequiel Lavezzi

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    Name: Ezequiel Lavezzi

    Date of Birth: 3 May 1985

    Birthplace: Villa Gobernador Galvez

    Position: Striker

    Caps: 29

    Club: Paris Saint-Germain

    Brief Bio: A key part of Argentina's attack for his versatility and work-rate, Lavezzi always gives his all for the Seleccion. While there are technically more talented players around, few have as much heart as the PSG man. 

    Quick-Hit Fact: Although Lavezzi was born in the outskirts of Rosario and played in Central's youth divisions, it was with lower league Estudiantes de Buenos Aires that he first appeared in senior football. 

    Quick-Hit Stat: A hat-trick against Pisa in 2007 was the first scored by a Napoli player in 14 years. 

Franco Di Santo

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    Frank Augstein/Associated Press

    Name: Franco Di Santo

    Date of Birth: 7 April 1989

    Birthplace: Mendoza

    Position: Striker

    Caps: 4

    Club: Werder Bremen

    Brief Bio: In an Argentine attack dominated by diminutive figures, the burly Di Santo adds a taller dimension to the forward equation. In good form for Werder after a disappointing Premier League career, his choice was nevertheless one of the day's surprises.

    Quick-Hit Fact: The striker has represented three English clubs in his short career: Chelsea, Blackburn and Wigan. 

    Quick-Hit Stat: At 6'4", Di Santo towers a full nine inches over his captain Lionel Messi.