Lionel Andrés Messi Cuccittini is an Argentine professional footballer who plays as a forward and captains both FC Barcelona and the Argentina national team.
Often considered the best player in the world and regarded by many as one of the greatest players of all time, Messi has won a record-tying five Ballon d’Or awards, four of which consecutively, and a record five European Golden Shoes.
He has spent his entire professional career with Barcelona, where he has won a club-record 34 trophies, including 10 La Liga titles, four UEFA Champions League trophies and six Copas del Rey.
Messi was presented with a prestigious award in a special ceremony on Thursday, becoming only the second Blaugrana player ever to receive the honour.
The 31-year-old was honoured by the Catalan government this week, being given the Creu de Sant Jordi (St. George’s Cross) in an annual ceremony.
The honour is believed to be one of the highest civil distinctions awarded in Catalonia, as pointed out by Barca’s official Twitter account.
28 individuals and 15 organisations are handed the award every year for outstanding services to the region.
Messi received the award directly from Catalonia president Quim Torra, and was described as the “greatest footballer of all time” who “embodies such basic social attributes as humility, honesty, education, creativity, teamwork, and respect”.
The Argentine was reportedly praised for the successes of his own organisation, the Leo Messi Foundation, which is believed to have helped fund the SJD Pediatric Cancer Centre in the city of Barcelona.
In picking up the award, Messi became only the second footballer ever to be honoured with the accolade, after the legendary Johan Cruyff.