However extraordinary their talents, often relatively little else of note has happened in the lives of young footballers. One could almost hear the ghostwriter sigh as he dutifully penned the then 20-year-old Wayne Rooney's words: "I had an ordinary childhood, really."
This biography of Barcelona's 22-year-old Argentinian superstar Lionel Messi also has its plodding patches, and some clumsy translation, but benefits from the fact that far less is known in Britain about Fifa's 2009 Footballer of the Year than about Rooney. Shy, unstudious, subjected to years of daily injections to rectify his growth hormone deficiency, "The Flea" was transported from a happy provincial family life in Argentina to Barcelona at the age of 13, and this book is revealing about how big clubs handle such youthful talent.
Messi doesn't have much to say for himself, but family members, coaches and other football figures testify to the calm temperament that helped him survive and thrive. Worth reading, if only because many predict he will turn out to be a sensation at this year's World Cup.
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