Lionel Messi is one of the most famous soccer players in the world. He is also one of the greatest soccer players ever and he has millions of fans around the globe. But one thing that many people are unsure of is what languages Messi can speak. And also, can Lionel Messi speak English? That is what we will learn today.
In simple terms – no, Lionel Messi does not speak English. The Paris Saint-Germain star is from Argentina. Until the summer of 2021, he played soccer in Spain for his entire career. He joined Barcelona in 2000 when he was just 13 years old.
There are some opposing views on whether Messi can understand English. We will look into h(in)ability to speak English. As someone who often talks to the media, there are plenty of videos about the Argentine star. However, there are no clear signs of Messi being able to speak any language other than Spanish.
Examples of Messi’s Not Being Able to Speak English
To explain how we know that Messi can’t speak English, we will take a look at several examples where this became obvious to soccer fans.
Messi showed his inability to speak English at the UEFA Champions League draw ceremony in 2019. During an interview with Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, the interviewer started a conversation with the Portuguese star. They were speaking in English when the interviewer tried to bring Messi into the conversation.
However, it was clear Messi failed to understand what she was saying. At that point, the interviewer and Ronaldo switch to speak in aileoulSpanish, so that Messi can know what they are talking about. Here is how that conversation went:
If Messi understood English, he would have laughed earlier, when the interviewer asked Ronaldo if he misses competing with Lionel.
The second example of Messi being unable to speak English is linked with Cristiano Ronaldo again. This time, it happened at the Ballon d’Or ceremony in 2016. It was then that Lionel Messi was awarded the Ballon d’Or for being the best player in 2015. However, the interesting story for us happened after the ceremony.
Cristiano Ronaldo, who speaks fluent English thanks to his days playing for Manchester United, was asked by the media about his experience throughout the ceremony. He said that he was acting as a translator for Messi and Neymar. Neither of them understands English. Ronaldo also got the most out of the opportunity to make a joke.
“Before the gala, on the stage, I was a translator for Neymar and him [Messi]. I told them they would have to pay me”, Ronaldo said to the English media. But there are more examples of Messi not being able to speak English.
The last and maybe even the most curious example of Messi not being able to speak English also occurred in 2019. It was a heart-warming story that brought this to the attention of Messi’s fans.
An 11-year-old boy Mackenzie O’Neill is from north London. He went with his family to Antigua, in the Caribbean. He was on the beach with his father, and he realized Messi was there as well, with his family.
The then-Barcelona star was pictured playing football with his son Thiago and the other three children. Among them was Mackenzie. The video went viral, but Argentinian media outlet Ole managed to get in contact with the English boy.
He explained Messi was with his family on the beach when he played with a soccer ball. Messi’s father Jorge invited him to play with them, and they ended up playing together for 45 minutes. Mackenzie then explained if he got any advice from Messi.
“No, because he doesn’t speak English, but seeing how skillful he was was enough advice for me. Messi’s wife [Antonella] translated because she speaks English very well”, said Mackenzie O’Neill.
Did Messi Ever Speak English in Public?
While we can agree Lionel Messi doesn’t speak English, we cannot say he never spoke at least some words of it. That happened before a Champions League match in 2020 when Messi captained Barcelona.
Before the match started, Messi was at the center of the field with Leonardo Bonucci, Juventus’ captain, and the referees. They were flipping the coin to decide which team will start the game on which side of the field.
“So, I have the angel, and I have the text”, said the referee, explaining the difference between sides of the coin.
“Umm… Text”, Messi said, and when it turned out he chose the right side of the coin, he had to decide if his team wanted to have the ball or choose the side of the field.
“The ball, the ball”, said Messi. While this might seem like way too little and that those words are already similar in the Spanish language, they are still the only words we managed to find.
Messi does not speak in public in any other language than Spanish, so even these few words he uttered are intriguing and unusual to hear. Messi once even declined to say ‘I love Egypt’ in a video. He was asked to do it, but he only said it in Spanish (‘Amo Egipto’), rejecting to say it in English:
Does Messi Understand English?
There are different pieces of evidence regarding this question. Looking at some of the above video examples, Messi does not understand English. If we look at the existing video evidence, this is probably true. However, that is not the entire story.
Messi probably understands some English words or phrases, and there is one video where he talks about his speaking abilities. Before an interview when Messi became a new Paris Saint-Germain player in the summer of 2021, he was interviewed by a Spanish journalist Guillem Balague.
In the video, the journalist jokes that they could interview in English, knowing that Messi can’t speak it. Messi laughs and suggests that he has been learning it for a year and a half and that he understands it but is not speaking it. However, apart from his words, there is no clear evidence that Messi understands English well enough to get by without a translator.
What Languages Does Messi Speak?
Lionel Messi speaks Spanish and can speak Catalan. Spanish is his native language. He is from Rosario, Argentina, where Spanish is the official language. In fact, in most of South America, Spanish is the main language, with the exceptions of Brazil (Portuguese), French Guiana (French) and Guyana (English).
Messi left Argentina in 2000, at the age of 13. He moved to Barcelona, joining the famous club in their La Masia academy. He had spent his entire life until 2021 in Spanish speaking countries, and therefore, he spoke in that language.
Messi still speaks with an Argentinian accent. He did not change to the Castillian accent, which people from outside Spain call Spanish. Other Spanish accents, such as those in South America, clearly differ, although people who don’t speak the language can’t hear the difference.
There are some suggestions that Messi speaks Catalan. That is the language spoken in three Spanish regions – Catalonia, Valencia and the Balearic Islands. Since Barcelona is the capital of the region of Catalonia, Messi has spent most of his life surrounded by the Catalan language and the people speaking it.
Many are unsure whether Messi speaks Catalan. In one interview, he said he could speak Catalan, but prefers not to. [source]
But why doesn’t Messi speak languages other than Spanish?
Why Doesn’t Messi Speak Other Languages?
Lionel Messi speaks only Spanish and could potentially converse in Catalan. There is no video evidence of him speaking any other language than Spanish.
Messi doesn’t speak English because he never had to learn it. Born in Argentina, he moved to Spain when he was 13 and remained there until 34. There was no need to learn English, the way some of his Argentina teammates had to when they played in England.
But the situation around the Catalan language is more interesting.
Why Doesn’t Messi Speak Catalan?
There are no definitive answers, but Messi doesn’t speak Catalan for two reasons. Firstly, due to the political implications that could create in Spain and secondly because of his Argentinian roots.
Political Implications Of Speaking Catalan
Lionel Messi doesn’t speak Catalan because that is a heavily politicized subject in the Catalan region and Spain. Catalonia is a region divided between those who want it to secede from Spain and become an independent country and those who want it to remain part of Spain.
The Catalan language is a significant tool for those battling for the independence of Catalonia. Therefore, if Messi was to speak Catalan in public, that would have many different implications. Some would believe Messi was backing the views of those who want independent Catalonia, while he would probably be looked at negatively in other parts of Spain. With the Catalan language used for political purposes, Messi would not be able to speak in Catalan and not become a part of the political discourse, whether he wanted that or not.
Therefore, it’s easier for Messi to just don’t speak Catalan.
Messi’s Argentinian roots
Lionel Messi left Argentina at the age of 13. Since he spent a big part of his life in Spain, growing up in Barcelona, Messi probably wanted to remain connected to his roots by choosing to not only always speak in Spanish, but with an Argentinian accent.
In Argentina, Messi’s not looked at the way legendary Diego Armando Maradona is. With the two of them being the greatest soccer players Argentina ever produced, many believe Messi is looked at differently because of his upbringing in Spain, with fans from Argentina never really looking at him as a ‘true’ Argentinian.
Some fans suggest this could be why Messi only speaks Argentinian Spanish, trying to stay connected with his roots and show that he is a real Argentine.
So, we have learned Lionel Messi doesn’t speak English. We also learned he only speaks Spanish, especially in public. He understands Catalan but refuses to use that language. We don’t know if he will learn any French while playing for Paris Saint-Germain.
What we know is – if you ever meet Lionel Messi, greet him with a Spanish phrase!