Lionel Messi to be featured on cover of Pro Evolution Soccer 2009

Okay, I’m going back to calling it “soccer,” since both EA and Konami are doing so. Anyway, on the virtual soccer pitch, the two main combatants are EA’s FIFA Soccer series and Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer games. FIFA 09 was announced over a month ago, and now Konami has responded by bringing out the first screenshots of this year’s iteration in their vaunted soccer series, Pro Evolution Soccer 2009.

The cover will feature Argentine footballer Lionel Messi, of FC Barcelona. Messi, who co-FIFA Player of the Century Diego Maradona has called his “successor,” is the youngest player ever to compete in the Spanish Professional Football League. He led Barça to the 2005-06 UEFA Champions League title, and was named by SI Latino as its World Player of the Year last year. I find it slightly depressing that this soccer star is 7 months younger than I am.

My brother swears by the FIFA games, but I’ve met many other people who can’t get enough of the fantastically accurate sim gameplay of the Pro Evo series. If you fall in the latter group, you might be interested to know that PES 2009 will be out this fall for the PS3, 360, PS2, PC, and PSP. Yes, you read right — it looks like Wii owners won’t have any options except FIFA Soccer 09 All-Play.

Hit the jump for the full PR, and the gallery below for five screens along with two promotional photos and an in-game render of Messi.

KONAMI ANNOUNCES PRO EVOLUTION SOCCER 2009

World’s Best-Selling Soccer Video Game Franchise Coming This Fall To The PLAYSTATION®3, Xbox 360®, PC-DVD, PlayStation®2, and PSP® (PlayStation®Portable) system

Argentinean Forward Lionel Messi To Be Face Of The Latest Edition Of The World’s Best-Selling Soccer Video Game Series

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – August 5, 2008 GOOOOOALLLL! Konami Digital Entertainment, Inc., today announced it will release Pro Evolution Soccer 2009 in North America for the PLAYSTATION®3 computer entertainment system, PlayStation®2 computer entertainment system, Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft, PSP® (PlayStation®Portable) system, and PC DVD-ROM. Slated for a fall 2008 release, Pro Evolution Soccer 2009 combines the attention to detail that has been the series’ hallmark with extensive new additions that are certain to cement the franchise’s reputation as the world’s definitive soccer title for any format.

Known by millions of fans for its superior gameplay and incredible realism, PES 2009 will further bridge the gap between PES and the real thing. The game has undergone a stunning graphical update to ensure its players look more like their real-life counterparts. Similarly, all-new options allow users to tailor the game to their own tastes, while new stylish moves, innovative control schemes and key online elements further the realism.

Adding to the authenticity, Argentinean forward Lionel Messi will be the face of the latest version of the multi-million selling Pro Evolution Soccer series. Regarded as one of the most exciting talents of the modern game, the 21-year-old is a ever-present fixture on both the Argentinean national team and his club team, FC Barcelona. Having played for Argentinean and Spanish youth reserve teams since he was five, Messi ultimately became the youngest player ever to compete in the top Spanish league during October 2004. Since then, he has led FC Barcelona to the 2005-06 UEFA Champions League title, was named SI Latino’s World Player of the Year in 2007, and has been runner-up to prestigious awards including the France Football Player of the Year, and the World Soccer Footballer of the Year. As part of the deal, Messi will appear on the packaging and point-of-sale materials for Pro Evolution Soccer 2009.

“Most modern players are aware of the realism and skill of the Pro Evolution Soccer series,” commented Messi. “It is a game that truly mirrors the pace and control of real football, and as a die-hard fan of the series, I am delighted to be working with Konami on the latest version.”

Pro Evolution Soccer has always been the game of choice for soccer enthusiasts due to its ultra realism and superior gameplay and there is no player in the world more suited to be on the box than the talented forward from Barcelona, Lionel Messi,” said Anthony Crouts, Vice President of Marketing for Konami Digital Entertainment. “Lionel is one of the most exciting and accomplished players in the world and we look forward to working very closely with him to promote the most advanced PES title ever developed.”

PES 2009 will be released for PlayStation®3, PlayStation®2, Xbox 360®, PC-DVD, and PSP® (PlayStation®Portable) in Autumn 2008.

Samit Sarkar