Why is Lionel Messi called 'La Pulga'? PSG star's 'Flea' nickname meaning explained

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Most footballing greats have got their nicknames - Cristiano Ronaldo is known as the 'El Bicho' in Spain, while Ronaldo de Assis Moreira is more commonly referred to as 'Ronaldinho'.

Similarly, Lionel Messi, who is widely regarded as one of the best footballers to have ever graced the pitch, also has got an interesting moniker - 'La Pulga'.

So what does the nickname mean and why is he called it? GOAL takes a look.

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Why is Lionel Messi known as 'La Pulga' & what does it mean?

One of Messi's most famous nicknames is that of 'La Pulga', which means 'the flea' in Spanish.

He has been known by this nickname since he was a kid. It is believed that two of his elder brothers called him 'La Pulgita' (little flea) which later came to be known as 'La Pulga'.

The Rosario native was not one of the biggest kids on the pitch and his small stature earned him the moniker. In fact, Messi had a growth hormone disorder or GHD, treatment for which Barcelona helped to pay for.

Some in the Spanish media would also call him 'La Pulga Atomica' (the atomic flea) as he always had the explosive talent to take on defenders.

Indeed, Messi's considerable upper-body strength has allowed him to physically match his opponents in challenges - while his quick footwork allows him to excel at dribbling. Moreover, due to his height, he has a low centre of gravity which further helps him to keep his balance while he is dribbling or sprinting with the ball.

What other nicknames does Messi have?

Messi has quite a few nicknames other than being known as 'La Pulga'. He is fondly called Leo, a shortened form of his full first name that is informally used by football figures, teammates, and pundits alike.

It is also supposed that Messi may have been named after singer Lionel Richie, who has produced some immortal tracks like "Hello" and Truly". His fans also refer to him as the "Messiah", as he has rescued many Barcelona and Argentina teams at their hour of need.