Lionel Messi celebrates 10 years since making his full Barcelona debut this week, having broken all sorts of records in the decade in between. His career has been littered with trophies, goals, scintillating play and the occasional bit of heartbreak. However, here are 10 of the moments that stand out most of all.
Debut vs Espanyol
The world was shown its first glimpse of Messi on this day ten years ago, when the 17-year-old was sent on by Frank Rijkaard in the La Liga game against Espanyol. Messi had come a long way to make his debut, despite becoming the youngest Barca player to appear in La Liga at the time. Coming on for Deco, the goalscorer in the 1-0 win, Messi played the final 8 minutes as the world watched the quick feet of an eager-to-impress teenager. Coincidentally, the skipper for Barca that day was Luis Enrique.
Messi became the youngest player to score in La Liga for Barcelona with his lob against Albacete in May 2005, but only after seeing his first attempt incorrectly ruled out for offside. Minutes later, Ronaldinho clipped a ball through for Messi who calmly put the ball over the onrushing keeper and into the back of the net. It was to be the first of many for the striker.
For many, this is the moment Messi truly announced himself on the world stage, by scoring three times against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu. At just 19, Messi equalised three times in the 3-3 draw, all with his left foot, but it was his final goal in added time which stunned everyone. Although trademark for Messi nowadays, he beat two players at pace, bursting into the Madrid penalty area before launching a drive beyond Iker Casillas.
Comparisons to Diego Maradona had been raging for quite some time, but a 19-year-old Messi replicated the great man’s famous goal from the 1986 World Cup, dribbling from inside his own half to score a wonder goal. Many believe Messi won’t eclipse Maradona until he wins the World Cup, but he was able to score a goal worthy of the legendary striker whilst still in his teens.
Champions League Final header against Manchester United
By 2009, Messi had yet to win over some critics, especially those in England. There were doubts that he could recreate his quality against England’s finest, and that he didn’t score enough goals with his head. Added to that was the fact that this was Messi’s first Champions League Final, so the pressure was on. However, a perfect header in the 70th minute from Messi put the game beyond Manchester United, and hushed many of his critics as Messi and Barca began their period of meteoric success.
The myth that Messi couldn’t perform against Premier League clubs was put to bed emphatically in 2010 as he put four past Arsenal at the Nou Camp. The Gunners had taken the lead in the second leg, but Messi brought Barca back level with a thunderbolt from 25 yards. Another fine goal followed before Messi clipped his third over Manuel Almunia. His fourth followed as he rode four challenges to score at the second attempt and leave Arsenal wondering how one man had single-handedly taken them apart.
Barcelona met Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-finals in 2011, with the contest marred by ugly scenes from the management after it kicked off on the touchline. Messi should have taken the plaudits from the first leg, scoring both in a 2-0 win which virtually secured their passage to the Wembley final. His second goal was one of his best as Messi beat a number of players to haunt Madrid yet again.
No Leverkusen player could handle Messi on this night as Barca won 7-1 with the Argentine scoring five of them. He was the first man to score five in a single Champions League game, but to do it against decent opponents made it more impressive. His tally included two chips, two strikes into the corner and one tap in from a rebound. Barca could have had more but it was another record-breaking night for Messi.
91 goals in 2012
What a year for Messi, who finished with an astonishing 91 in 2012, eclipsing Gerd Muller’s European record of 85. No player in the modern game can come near a feat such as Messi’s, who has made scoring goals look easy throughout his career. FIFA refused to accept it as a world record, but no one has scored as many in a top league and at international level before, making Messi one of a kind, and a marvel of the modern generation of footballer.
All time Barca top scorer
In March 2014, Messi finally became Barca’s record scorer in all competitions with a hat-trick in the 7-0 demolition of Osasuna. He moved past Paulinho Alcantara’s total of 369 which had stood since 1927, and continues to make history. With 249 La Liga goals, Messi needs just two more to take the record, which could come against Eibar on Saturday. At just 27, Messi could score at the same rate for another decade to come!
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