Senior Editor, PEOPLE
When Lionel Messi helped Argentina secure a win against France in the 2022 FIFA World Cup, he had three very important fans cheering him on: his sons Mateo, Thiago and Ciro.
The soccer star, who scored two goals during the thrilling match, shared a sweet moment with two of his kids after the game when his boys embraced him in a hug while wearing jerseys with their father’s name and number (10) on the back. They were soon joined by their younger brother and mom, Antonella Roccuzzo, who later posted several sweet photos from the family celebration.
"I don't even know how to start," Roccuzzo captioned a gallery of photos featuring herself, Messi and their three sons. "What a great pride we feel for you @leomessi Thank you for teaching us to never give up, that we have to fight it until the end IT WAS FINALLY DONE YOU ARE A WORLD CHAMPION, we know what you suffered for so many years, what you wanted to achieve this!!!"
Messi and Roccuzzo, who were childhood friends and later reconnected in 2005, welcomed their first son, Thiago, in 2012. Their second son, Mateo, arrived in 2015, followed by their third son, Ciro, in 2018.
The athlete later told FC Barcelona that fatherhood changed his entire perspective. “You grow and you learn,” he said in 2017. “You gather experience in all aspects of life, on and off the field. But, as a human being, having three children changed my perspective on life, my way of thinking and it also helped me grow.”
Though this was not Messi's first World Cup appearance, he told reporters that the experience was even more special because his boys are old enough to "enjoy it more."
“From the very beginning, from kick-off to the final whistle, I’m thinking of my children,” he said after defeating Australia in the round of 16, per The Athletic. “They’re growing older. They understand better what’s going on and they enjoy it more.”
Although Messi has said he wants his sons to “do what makes them happy,” whether that involves soccer or not, it’s clear his boys are already following in their father’s talented footsteps. Not only have Thiago, Mateo and Ciro spent much of their lives growing up on the field while cheering Messi on, all three of the boys are burgeoning soccer stars in their own right.
After Messi signed with Ligue 1 club Paris Saint-Germain in 2021 and he and Roccuzzo moved their family to France, both Thiago and Mateo enrolled in the PSG soccer academy. However, the boys’ best lessons likely come from home, as Messi occasionally shares videos of him and his sons competing in friendly matches.
Here's everything to know about Lionel Messi's three sons with Antonella Roccuzzo.
Messi and Roccuzzo became parents for the first time on Nov. 2, 2012, when they welcomed their son Thiago. Shortly after his birth, Messi showed off his love for his young son in a permanent fashion by getting the newborn’s name and handprints tattooed on his calf.
Messi has been open about the impact Thiago had on his life, telling El Periódico in 2013, “My son has changed my life more than the Ballon d’Or [awards] have.”
The soccer star also explained that his priorities shifted after becoming a father: "When I look at life, think about each moment, when I analyze every situation … Now everything is different."
Despite Messi’s high-profile career, his life off the field looks like that of any other parent, as he wrote in a 2016 essay for Sports Illustrated.
"A typical day involves taking Thiago to school, going to training, hanging out at home drinking maté and spending time with Anto and the kids at the park or somewhere," he described. "It's a normal, calm life, the kind of life we have always wanted."
Thiago, now 10, started playing soccer at a young age, and was formerly a member of Barcelona’s academy, as Messi played for the club from 2004 to 2021. Back in February 2020, a video of Thiago scoring a goal during his first match with the team went viral as fans quickly declared him a young protégé. He currently plays for the Paris Saint-Germain academy, and as Messi described during an October 2022 interview, Thiago and his brothers adapted to their new home in Paris quite easily.
"The boys are the ones who adapted the best. It was what worried us the most and it was the easiest of all," he said in Spanish.
Ahead of Messi’s World Cup victory, Thiago shared a sweet message of support for his father by writing down the lyrics to “Muchachos Ahora Nos Volvimos a Ilusionar,” as seen on his mother’s Instagram story. The song has become the unofficial anthem for Argentina during the Word Cup, and according to ESPN, is a personal favorite of Messi’s.
Messi and Roccuzzo welcomed their second child, Mateo, on Sept. 11, 2015.
“Mateo is very special, he’s always doing new things, things that grab your attention,” Messi said of his middle son in a 2019 interview.
And while the soccer star describes Thiago as the "calm" sibling, Messi says Mateo takes after his own competitiveness. "Mateo is the same as me when I was little, he doesn't like to lose anything," Messi told Argentian journalist Sebastián Vignolo.
Though Mateo likes to win, Messi doesn’t let victory come easy to his sons whenever they’re playing soccer together — in fact, Roccuzzo had to remind him to “let the kids win” in a hilarious video she posted on Instagram in April 2022.
Mateo’s competitive spirit applies to his father’s soccer career as well. After Messi and his team’s shocking loss to Saudi Arabia in November, the athlete told reporters that Mateo left the stadium crying. “My family suffer the same as all Argentines, but we are happy and we get comfortable again because now our progress depends on us,” he said.
In honor of Mateo's seventh birthday in September, Roccuzzo posted a sweet tribute on Instagram, describing her son as the jokester of the family. "Crazy beautiful, with your batteries and energy recharged, always making us die of laughter," she wrote in Spanish along with a few snaps of Mateo, including one of him standing in front of a soccer net.
Ciro, Messi and Roccuzzo's third son, was born on March 10, 2018.
Both his father and mother have tattoos dedicated to their youngest — Messi has Ciro’s name and birth date inscribed on his calf, along with his brother’s names, while Roccuzzo has “Ciro” tattooed on her arm.
At just 4 years old, Messi says Ciro is still developing his personality. However, he's already taking after his older brother. "He copies Mateo a lot, and they go against me a lot," Messi said in October 2022.
When Ciro was only eight months old, Messi described the births of his three sons as "life changing" to Sports Illustrated. "I'm ecstatic about the family we have been able to create," he wrote in an essay for the outlet.
However, there was one important goal he was still striving to achieve at the time: "Of course, outside of my family nothing would make me happier than to win my first World Cup with Argentina in 2018," he wrote.
Just four years later, he would go on to celebrate his first World Cup victory — with all three of his sons by his side.
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Lionel Messi's 3 Kids: Everything to Know – PEOPLE
Senior Editor, PEOPLE