The World Cup winning captain of 2022 Lionel Messi said his children had helped him learn to overcome the pain of defeat – because there are more important things in life.

The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner, looking to make it eight in 2023, has tributes to his children tattooed on his body and sports their names on his boots. Clearly a proud father, he also regularly shares pictures of his family on social media.

Messi and wife Antonella have been together since childhood and got married in their hometown of Rosario in Argentina in June 2017.

Hilariously, one of their children (Mateo) was caught throwing a lollipop during Argentina’s World Cup win over Australia, appearing to cause his mother a moment of concern.

Here’s what else we know about the Argentina captain’s children and a look at some famous offspring of top footballers.

MORE: Messi masterclass guides Argentina into 2022 World Cup final

How many kids does Messi have?

Messi and Antonella have three sons. All three count Barcelona, the home of the club where the striker remains the all-time top scorer, as their birthplace.

Eldest Thiago is nine, while middle child Mateo is seven and youngest Ciro is four.


Where do Messi’s sons play?

Messi’s family joined him on the pitch at the Parc des Princes when he left boyhood club Barca to make a shock move to Paris Saint-Germain in the summer of 2021.

It made sense, then, for Messi to decide to enrol Matea and Thiago at the French giants’ academy, and PSG hoped the youngsters proved to have inherited Messi’s ingenuity with a ball – until they enrolled with Inter Miami’s academy, with Thiago and Mateo officially joining the MLS club’s youth ranks in September 2023.

Messi is a private figure despite operating under the brightest of spotlights in his professional life.

He has, however, discussed his family at times, revealing in December 2017 that Mateo and Thiago have contrasting personalities.

“They are very different,” he told TyC Sports, offering an affectionate description of Mateo that is unsurprising given the footage of him to have emerged in Qatar.

“Thiago is a phenomenon; he’s a good little boy. The other is just the opposite, a son of a b****.

“Thiago likes cars and motorcycles more. He likes football, but even there he plays for a little bit and gets tired. Mateo is a terror, a character. It’s nice to see how different they are from each other.”

Sons of famous footballers

There have been many examples of famous footballers’ children following in their footsteps to join the professional ranks.

Fellow Argentina hero Diego Maradona’s son, Diego Sinagra – who the football icon did not meet for the first time until almost 17 years after his birth – was a midfielder or forward who started out in the youth set-up of his illustrious dad’s former club, Napoli.

Sinagra represented Italy at youth level and is currently the manager of lower-division side Napoli United.

All of France legend Zinedine Zidane’s four sons have become successful footballers, although they can certainly be forgiven for not reaching the incredible heights that their father did in the game.

The son of one of Zidane’s teammates in Les Bleus’ 1998 World Cup-winning squad, Lilian Thuram, was called up for France’s squad at the 2022 tournament: Marcus Thuram is an attacker for German top-flight club Borussia Monchengladbach.

Jordi Cruyff has perhaps the most significant surname of any player who worked under their father as a footballer.

The winger moved with the immortally influential Johan Cruyff from Ajax to Barcelona before being sold to Manchester United, where he won the UEFA Champions League and Premier League.

The most successful current footballer taking the same vocation as their father is Erling Haaland, who was the runaway Premier League top scorer before the start of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

The Manchester City and Norway striker’s dad, Alfie, was a more defensive player for City between 2000 and 2003 as part of a 10-year Premier League career, during which time he was also a regular for Norway.

After his move to Manchester was confirmed, Haaland’s lineage resulted in a number of evocative photos emerging of the outstanding new talent wearing a City shirt in support of his father while he was growing up.

Haaland in Man City kits as a boy. Written in the stars.

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Kay Adams