Lionel Messi, one of the world’s most popular footballers, has played for teams around the world. He has won the Ballon d’Or, plays for both Barcelona and the Argentinian national team and is considered by some to be the greatest living football player in the world.
In addition to his sporting expoloits, he is rumoured to be on the autistic spectrum. There are unconfirmed reports that Messi was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome (a pervasive developmental disorder on the autistic spectrum) at the age of 9.
This could go some way towards explaining his exceptional sporting talent, and his unwavering focus on football – as those with Aspergers have been observed to interact differently with the world than others. Common traits include social difficulties, repetitive behaviour, and on occasion extreme skill in specific areas – which could account for Messi’s exceptional ability on the pitch.
He is also reported to have exhibited other qualities common among those with Aspergers – during his childhood in the city of Rosario in the late 1980s and early 1990s it is said that he was nicknamed ‘el pequeño mudito’ (‘the little mute’), as he would rarely speak to his peers or team-mates outside of necessary interactions on the pitch in games and during training.
The possible diagnosis had gone largely unknown until it was revealed on Twitter by former Brazilian footballer Romário de Souza Faría. Roberto Amado, the Brazilian journalist who was the first to report on Messi’s condition, said that the purpose of his article revealing the diagnosis was to ‘reveal this unknown feature of Messi and show that autism is not a cause of social exclusion, that autistic people can be very productive‘.
While Messi himself has not publicly discussed these rumours, others have praised the way in which they believe he has overcome Aspergers. Various autism awareness associations have hailed him as an example of a celebrity with Aspergers in spite of the fact that it has never been officially confirmed that he is on the autistic spectrum.