Technically perfect, he brings together unselfishness, pace, composure and goals to make him number one.
Leo Messi’s footballing career started in 1995 at Newell’s Old Boys, where he played until the year 2000. At the age of 13, Lionel Messi crossed the Atlantic to try his luck in Barcelona, and joined the Under 14s. Messi made spectacular progress at each of the different age levels, climbing through the ranks to Barça C, followed by Barça B and the first team in record time.
In the 2003-2004 season, when he was still only 16, Messi made his first team debut in a friendly with Porto that marked the opening of the new Do Dragao stadium.
The following championship-winning season, Messi made his first appearance in an official match on October 16, 2004, in Barcelona’s derby win against Espanyol at the Olympic Stadium (0-1). With several first team players seriously injured, the services of several reserve team players were called upon, and Messi became a regular feature of Barça squads.
His breakthrough came in the 2005-06 season, starting with an amazing performance in the Joan Gamper Trophy match against Juventus. He was also outstanding at the Santiago Bernabéu, in Barcelona’s unforgettable 3-0 win, and also at Stamford Bridge, in the Champions League match against Chelsea. Injury kept him sidelined for much of the latter stage of the season, but Messi still played a total of 17 league games, 6 in the Champions League and 2 in the Copa del Rey, and scored eight goals.
In the 2008/09 season, and now without Ronaldinho alongside him, Messi became the main star of the Barça squad that claimed the treble and he scored in the Copa del Rey and Champions League finals. He also scored the goal against Estudiantes that won Barça their first Club World Cup.
Messi, as in Rome, played a vital role in the Champions League final at Wembley in 2011 were scored a scorcher from outside the area to put his team ahead.
The season 2011/12 saw Messi again key as Barça claimed the Spanish Super Cup, the UEFA Super Cup, the FIFA Club World Cup and the Copa del Rey. The following season the striker was once more vital as the blaugranes claimed the league title with 100 points.
In 2014/15 his 56 goals in all competitions laid the foundation for a second treble in the Club’s history. In 2018 Messi become captain, taking over from the departed Andrés Iniesta and since then the Argentine has become the most decorated footballer in FC Barcelona history with 35 trophies to his name. Messi became just the second player in Barça history to make more than 700 appearances for the Club and the first to score more than 600 goals. In the 2020/21 season he moved past Xavi Hernández’s record of 767 games for FC Barcelona to claim first place on the all time list.
On an individual level Messi has continually broken records throughout his career. In 2005 he became the youngest player ever to score in the league for Barça, a record now held by Ansu Fati. In 2011/12 Messi moved past César Rodríguez’s record of 232 official goals to become the Club’s all-time top goalscorer. He ended 2012 with the record number of goals in a calendar year (91), thus beating the historic tally established by Gerd Müller (85 for Bayern Munich and Germany in 1972).
The following year, 2013/14 Messi reached yet another landmark, overtaking Paulino Alcántara’s total of 369 goals to become the leading goalscorer of all time at the Club
The 2014/2015 season was one of the Argentine star’s most brilliant. First, in a game against Sevilla at Camp Nou Messi surpassed Telmo Zarra’s 251 career goals to become the all-time leading scorer in league history. Messi also passed Raúl’s 71 career goals to become the all-time leading scorer in Champions League history. In the 2020/21 season Messi reached yet another landmark when he surpassed Pelé’s total of 643 goals with Santos, becoming the player to score most goals with one club. The Argentinian also surpassed Luis Figo’s all-time La Liga assist record (105).
Messi’s individual achievements are also unprecedented: six Ballon d’Or awards, six times Champions League top scorer, six times Golden Shoe winner, eight times ‘Pichichi’ (top scorer) in La Liga, Ballon d’Or winner at the 2014 World Cup, FIFA World Player of the Year in 2009 and FIFA The Best winner in 2019.
Messi is also captain of the Argentina national side and has played in four World Cups (2006, 2010, 2014, 2018), losing in the final in 2014 in Brazil against Germany. He has also played in six Copa Américas (2007, 2011, 2015, 2016, 2019, 2021), losing in the final in both 2015 and 2016 to Chile on penalties before finally claiming a major honour for his country with the win over Brazil in the 2021 final. In the summer of 2008 he also played at the Beijing Olympics, and came home with a gold medal.