15 years of Messi magic.
On this day a decade-and-a-half ago, a 16-year-old Lionel Messi made his professional debut for Spanish giants Barcelona.
The Argentine ace only got 15 minutes of football that day, but it was only just the beginning of legacy that would cement his place in the upper-echelons of the sport’s all-time elite.
Football, as we knew it, would never be the same again.
Here, we look at the 11 best moments of Messi’s illustrious and unrivalled career!
2003: His Barcelona debut
Lionel Messi came off the bench for Barca to make his debut in a pre-season friendly against Jose Mourinho’s Porto.
The Catalan clubs ended up losing, but Messi left a lasting impression with former boss Frank Rijkaard.
It was only just the beginning.
2005: First goal for Barca
It was only his eighth senior appearance when he became the club’s youngest ever goalscorer.
Barca were 1-0 up against Albacete when Ronaldinho put the ball on the plate for Messi in the 90th minute.
Messi, in a move that has now become synonymous, dinked the ball over the onrushing keeper to score his first (of many) Barcleona goal.
Some things never change.
2007: Maiden Clasico hat-trick
The moment that made the man.
Ruud van Nistelrooy gave Real Madrid an early lead but it didn’t last for long, Messi responding almost immediately (six minutes later to be precise) to level the scoring.
Van Nistelrooy did the same again and restored Los Blancos’ lead — only for Messi to cancel it out not long after once again.
A young Sergio Ramos must’ve thought he’d won the game for Real after scoring with less than 20 minutes to go — but, you guessed it, Messi stopped that right in its tracks.
Messi’s last-gasp goal with only three minutes remaining secured his first treble for Barca and well and truly put his name on the map.
2007: ‘That’ goal against Getafe
Fans voted it the best goal in Barca’s history — now that’s saying something.
Messi left several defenders for dead on his way to scoring an unbelievable solo goal in the Copa Del Rey semi-final against Getafe.
People had already started comparing him to another Argentina legend — but this goal was eerily reminiscent of Diego Maradona’s moment of magic against England at the 1986 World Cup (no, not the ‘Hand of God’).
Whatever Diego could do, Messi could do better.
2009: Headed goal in the Champions League Final… against Ronaldo
A headed goal? Lionel Messi? Surely not.
Well, the 5ft 7in Barcelona forward defied the odds and leapt high to give his side an important lead over Manchester in the 2009 Champions League final in Rome.
It was his first time on Europe’s biggest stage and Messi’s goal not only helped him lift the coveted ‘jug ears’ for the first time, but also saw him finish as the tournament’s highest scorer with nine goals.
Cristiano Ronaldo – the reigning World Player of the Year – shared the pitch with Messi that night, but this was perhaps the moment that put the duo on level peggings.
2010: Messi hits FOUR past Arsenal
It was all to play for in the second leg after the first tie between the Gunners and Barca in the Champions League quarter-final ended 2-2 at the Emirates.
Messi well and truly took their second clash at the Nou Camp by the scruff of the neck.
Nicklas Bendtner gave Arsenal an early lead before Messi responded with four classy goals — his first the pick of the bunch.
When he effortlessly struck the ball past Manuel Almunia from the edge of the area just minutes after Bendtner’s goal, the Spanish shot stopper must’ve realised it was going to turn into a long (and ugly) night for him.
2010: Barcelona inflict Real’s worst heaviest in El Clasico
He may not have got on the scoresheet himself, but Messi was central to this absolute mauling.
Goals from Xavi, Pedro, Jeffren and a brace from David Villa helped Barcelona complete one of their most impressive wins against their biggest rivals.
The night got even worst for those wearing white when Sergio Ramos was dismissed for a dreadful challenge on Messi.
2012: Becomes Barcelona’s all-time leading goalscorer
It was inevitable.
Granada were put the sword by Barcelona in a La Liga match that ended 5-2 — Messi grabbing three of them.
His treble meant he broke the previous record held by Catalan icon Cesar Rodriguez which was 232… Messi now has over 600.
2015: Wins his record fifth Ballon d’Or
In the same year he added a fourth Champions League title to his name within a short decade, Messi was crowned the worlds best for a fifth time — the first to clinch the accolade that many times.
Messi had played a key role in Barcelona’s decade-long domination of European football and he had the individual silverware to match.
The man must have a mammoth trophy room.
2018: Becomes Barca skipper
The passing of the torch.
When Andreas Iniesta’s time at the Nou Camp came to an end in 2018, there was only one name on everyone’s mind when it came to selecting a new captain.
Messi started the new season with the iconic red and yellow armband on, further adding to his already-immense legacy at the club he had spent almost 15 years at.
2019: That free-kick against Liverpool
Just when everyone was starting to think he was finished, Messi pulled out a little bit of magic to prove his doubters wrong.
While Barcelona did end up losing the second leg of their Champions League semi-final to Liverpool in devastating fashion, what Messi produced in the first leg will be remembered forever by fans around the world.
The Barca skipper was only one goal away from bringing his total tally to 600 — and of course, that tally couldn’t be reached with just any ordinary goal.
Standing approximately 30-yards out, he produced a scorching, inch-perfect free-kick that left Reds keeper Alisson with no chance.
While the Barcelona fans roared, the travelling away supporters could only stand and applaud.