For the Barcelona attacker, that meant he had to have his diet down pat.
But the Argentinian star wasn't always eating like a professional. The Daily Mail previously reported about how Messi's eating habits were something you'd expect from a couch potato rather than the best player in the game.
As a teenager, despite his incredible potential and already established reputation, Messi was more a fan of fast food than fresh fish.
Several urban legends have done the rounds about just how bad his eating habits were: before a match during the 2008-09 season, Messi reportedly interrupted a Guardiola team-talk to ask if he could quickly grab a soft-drink while there are also reports that the Barcelona coach had to have a vending machine removed from the stadium because it was too close to the dressing room.
So how did Messi overhaul his diet to become football's GOAT?
He teamed up with Italian nutritionist Giuliano Poser in 2014 who explained just how bad his junk food diet was for his recovery. And with such a hectic schedule (some games just three days apart) being 100 per cent was crucial to maintaining high levels of performance and avoiding injuries.
Poser's advice was to exchange sugar-loaded foods with salads and seeds, fresh fruit and nuts. Messi also slowly reduced his meat intake - there are some suggestions that the body has to work harder during digestion on a carnivorous diet.
He also turned to tea to quench his thirst.
"Vegetables, seasonal fruits and a good mineral water are essential fuels for our muscles. You have to reduce the intake of processed foods or foods contaminated with pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics, medications..." he told Corriere del Veneto.
"And, of course, alcohol, tobacco and foods that are not tolerated. Football players often pay the consequences for bad nutrition."
Sugar, according to Poser during the same interview, “is the worst thing for the muscles. The farther he stays away from sugars, the better.” He then went on to say, “Refined flours are also a big problem as these days, it’s difficult to find uncontaminated wheat.”
When training, Lionel Messi also shied away from eating too much meat. In Poser’s own words, “The amount of meat normally eaten by Argentinians and Uruguayans is too much, as it is difficult to digest.” To compensate for the lack of protein, Messi reportedly drinks up to three protein shakes a day (along with tons of water) as a new match draws near.
After the 2014 World Cup, Messi returned to club duties with his new diet underway. The results were immediate. He led Barcelona to the treble after shedding three kilos. At 5 ft 5', Messi weighed in at 67 kilograms.
Interestingly, his diet also played a huge part in staying on the field. Between 2006 and 2013, Messi suffered 11 injuries. Following his nutritional changes, Messi spent significantly less time on the sidelines.
Lionel Messi's Diet plan
- Messi has a very strict diet plan and he makes sure that he sticks to it.
- Green vegetables and Fruits are the most vital resource of nutrients for the body.
- Apart from the diet of the usual days, there must be a separate plan build for the time before, during and after the game.
Nowadays, Lionel Messi retains the habits he picked up from Poser, even if he’s taking most of his diet advice from Barcelona’s nutrition team. Overseen by Dr Maria Antonia Lizarraga Dallo, the nutrition team advises players to refuel as often as possible after a match, by way of pasta salad or protein-rich sushi.
Messi follows a stringent diet plan so as to keep up his energy on the ground.
- 10 days prior to a football match:
While Messi stays away from carbohydrates, building them back into his diet as the time of match comes near is important so that his body maximises the availability of blood sugar, in sufficient amount inside the body, and thus giving the body a good shape. He also adds a protein shake 3 times a day, alongside his usual 7-8 glasses of water.
- 5 days prior to a football match:
The diet now is accompanied with vegetable soup before each meal. The soup must contain a high amount of turmeric, chilli powder and coriander and ginger so as to help the body in making blood thin. The thinner the blood becomes, the flow of blood in veins becomes easy and oxygen supply quickens.
- A day prior to the match:
With the forthcoming match Lionel takes fish/prawn/chicken in addition with boiled potatoes, green vegetables and fruits in his diet to as to strengthen his muscles and repair the body tissues after the workout.
- 6 hours prior to match:
As a substitute, he opts for having porridge or combine egg white for ideal balance of proteins and carbohydrates.
- 90 minutes before the match:
Messi prefers to have seasonal fruits 70-90 minutes before the match. Mango, Apple, Banana etc are all good as they have the best amount of fibre and have less sugar content. The time spent on honing the skills and stamina will be of not much use if it is not accompanied with a healthy diet. Nutrition is an important aspect for an athlete.
His favourite recipe
Messi's "favourite recipe" was revealed by Barcelona to be roasted chicken with root vegetables. The club shared the recipe with supporters on its official website and it goes as follows:
- 30g olive oil
- Four smashed garlic gloves
- One onion
- One bunch of carrots
- One leek
- 700-800g potatoes
- Four chicken thighs
- Fresh thyme
The instructions for cooking Messi's favourite dish using the above ingredients are simple: Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees centigrade, add oil and salt to roasting tray, then add chopped vegetables and chicken. Once prepared, roast for 45 minutes at 190 degrees.