‘One hell of a player’ the social construction of the early career of Lionel Messi: towards a sociological analysis

We analyse key circumstances and events in the early life and develop-ment of the Argentine soccer player Lionel Messi. We critically considersthe influences and choices which helped shape his stellar career, usinginsights from the work of French sociologist Pierre-Michel Menger aboutthe production of creative artists. Our approach is also inspired by thesociology of the symbolic interactionist Everett Hughes on the signifi-cance key‘turning points’associated with of sequences in occupationaldevelopment. We argue that this sort of interconnected analysis can beuseful for exploring the early construction of great sporting lives. In thiscase: Messi’s childhood in the city of Rosario; his very early departure toFC Barcelona in Spain; the crucial role of his father; and the characterrequired for Messi to become an elite sporting talent. Finally, we alsocomment on the reasons for Messi’s uncertain status as a national sport-ing hero.