Lionel Messi: What are the meanings behind his many tattoos?

  • Kat Lucas
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For all the on-field comparisons between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, the duo enjoy quite different personal lives. 

Many claim that the Portuguese has matched the Barcelona forward for his achievements - well, largely, anyway - because of his unrivalled fitness work. 

Messi has unprecedented gifts, but Ronaldo is often thought to be the harder worker. 

That may go some way towards explaining why the Juventus star is significantly more muscle-bound and while he might not be as quick as he once was, the 35-year-old is still an enormous presence in attack. 

Yet there's also another obvious physical difference between them. 

Fans have remarked upon the fact that Ronaldo doesn't have any tattoos. He once told Diretta that's because he regularly gives blood and there's a four-month wait after receiving new ink. 

Messi, on the other hand, is covered in body art. He now has at least 17 separate tattoos. 

Some of them are meaningful and some are just downright awful. Yet most of them carry a special significance. 

His mother's face 

Messi credits his mother with much of his success and has her face emblazoned on his back. 

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His wife's lips 

Kinda weird, this one. There are a few separate tributes to childhood sweetheart Antonela, including a pair of red lips on his waist. 

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A pair of hands 

Messi first became a father eight years ago when his son Thiago was born. That's whose hands they are, contrary to the rumour that it was a nod to Diego Maradona's 'Hand of God'. 

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Thiago's name in a heart 

Later, perhaps to clear up the confusion, he added a heart around the name Thiago to make it more prominent. 

Dates of his family's birthdays 

He also has a list of his family's birthdays - including his own, June 24th 1987, which he shouldn't be forgetting any time soon. 

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A football

Pretty self-explanatory, this one. 

Jesus Christ 

On his upper arm, he has a depiction of Jesus in a crown of thorns as a demonstration of his religious beliefs. 

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Lotus sign 

On the lotus flower, his tattooist once said (via The Sun): "The lotus symbolises that talent can grow anywhere even with forces stopping it."

Rose window 

A nod to the Sagrada Familia cathedral in Barcelona. His tattooist added: "The rose window of the famous Barcelona church Sagrada Familia shows the love he has for the city."

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A small crown

This is a matching tattoo, with his wife having a queen's crown on her arm. 

Antonela's eye 

As a further tribute to his wife, he also has a picture of her eye on his arm. 

A clock

It's not clear what the significance of the clock is - perhaps there isn't any - but it's still prominent. Right now he's probably using it to count down the minutes until his Barcelona contract expires this summer...

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Clock cogs 

Initially, he just had the clockface, but he's since added a further piece to his sleeve with the inner workings of the timepiece. 

Rosary

There's been some conjecture that Messi's rosary tattoo is a reference to 'Rosario' his hometown. It appears more likely to be an icon of rosary beads as another nod to his Catholic faith. 

No. 10 

On his shin, he has his no. 10 shirt number for Barcelona and Argentina. The number carries special significance for him because it was previously worn by his idol, Maradona. 

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Blacked out leg

Where he used to have a dagger with wings, he's now gone to some effort to erase it by blacking out most of the image, as you can see above. 

Mateo

Messi also has his second son's name spelled out on his right arm. 

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