Lionel Messi: 10 Best Moments in a Decade as a Barcelona Player
On November 16, 2003, Lionel Messi made his debut for Barcelona in a game against Porto. He wore the No. 14 shirt back then, just as Johan Cruyff once did for the Catalan side.
Ten years on, and now Barca's number, he is considered the best player in the world. There are some who consider him the greatest player of all time.
It has been a remarkable 10 years, in which he has won three Champions Leagues, six La Liga titles, two FIFA Club World Cups, two European Super Cups, two Copa del Reys, and six Spanish Super Sups.
Individually he has been awarded a record four Ballon d'Ors in succession, three European Golden Shoes, three 'Pichichis' and holds the record for most goals scored in a calender. He scored a mere 91 goals for Barcelona and Argentina back in 2012.
It is a difficult task to pick out his finest moments so far, but here are 10 of them to celebrate 10 years of the best player of his generation.
Messi's First Liga Goal
In 2005, at just 17 years old, Messi scored his first-ever senior goal for Barcelona in La Liga. It made him the club's youngest goalscorer at the time, and as we know now was the first of many.
The first time he put the ball in the back of the net he was offside, but not to be denied he was sent through again shortly after to make it 2-0 with what is now considered a typical Messi finish.
He linked up with the king of the Nou Camp at the time Ronaldinho, who flicked the ball over the defenders of Albacete back to the Argentinian, who simply lifted it over the 'keeper's head to make it 2-0.
Hat-Trick vs. Real Madrid
The greatest players always have games in their career which are considered a landmark for when they emerge as a future great of the game. Great goals are easy, but it is often an entire performance which takes a player's reputation from talented youngster to future legend. His hat-trick vs. Real Madrid in 2006/2007 did just that.
On March 10, 2007, Messi was still just 19 years old and still playing in the shadow of Brazilian Ronaldinho. It was not the smiling assassin, though, who punished Madrid, but a teenage Messi who kept Barca in the game against their rivals.
Real Madrid took the lead three times through two goals from Ruud van Nistelrooy and one from Sergio Ramos, but they were pegged back each time by Messi.
There were only three minutes remaining when the youngster scored his third, which prevented Los Blancos completing the double over Barcelona that season.
Lionel Messi Becomes 'Messidona'
Just in case there was anyone not impressed by his hat-trick against Real Madrid, Lionel Messi took it to another level once again just one month later.
At 1-0 up against Getafe in the Copa del Rey semi-final, Messi picked up the ball just inside his own half before dribbling past player after player, then finally rounding the 'keeper and calmly finishing the move off to double Barca's lead.
The Spanish media dubbed the 19-year-old 'Messidona' due to the goal's eerie resemblance to Diego Maradona's second goal in the 1986 World cup quarter-final against England.
Messi's Header Seals Champions League Win
Barcelona vs. Manchester United in the 2009 Champions League final was built up as Lionel Messi vs. Cristiano Ronaldo.
Ronaldo was crowned World Player of the Year in 2008 and Man Utd. were defending their European crown. Barcelona took the title of European champions that night in Rome with a 2-0 victory, but Messi's goal in a game in which Ronaldo was largely anonymous sealed the victory and put an exclamation mark on the Argentine's claim as best player in the world.
The fact it was a header was also significant because criticism of Messi was often centred around him not being as complete a player as Ronaldo, partly due to his lack of headers.
Messi Scores Four Against Arsenal
Barcelona dropped a two-goal lead in the first leg of their last-16 tie against Arsenal, but the Spanish champions were expected to see off Arsenal at home.
The attending fans were stunned when Arsenal took the lead, however, through Nicklas Bendtner (Yes, Nicklas Bendtner), to take an early advantage.
When you have the best player in the world on your side, though, a 0-1 deficit is easily fixed. Messi started with a powerful strike from the edge of the area to make it 1-1. That was followed by a close-range finish, a lovely chip over Manuel Almunia to complete the hat-trick, and he finished the night off by passing the ball through the 'keeper's legs for the only goal of the second half.
It was one of the greatest individual performances in the history of the European Cup and was the first time the Argentine managed four goals in a single Champions League match.
Barcelona 5-0 Real Madrid
In one of the most remarkable results and performances in recent La Liga history, Barcelona dismantled Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid in November 2010.
It was a historic night for both Lionel Messi and his teammates. The Argentine never scored but he was influential throughout the match and along with Andres Iniesta was one of Barcelona's best performers. Another game in which Barcelona outshone their bitter rivals from Madrid, and another game in which Messi outshone Cristiano Ronaldo.
He set up both of David Villa's goals and his movement, passes and selfless play contributed to an ultimate team performance and near footballing perfection.
Messi Scores Twice in Champions League Semi-Final Against Real Madrid
Barcelona and Real Madrid clashed at the semi-final stage of the 2011 Champions League. It was a feisty two-legged tie, but Barcelona ultimately came out on top thanks once again to Lionel Messi.
It was decided on enemy territory in the Santiago Bernabeu and both goals came in the second half. The first came when Ibrahim Afellay burst down the right-hand side past Marcelo and put in the perfect cross for Messi to finish from close range.
His second, though, was a thing of individual beauty. He fed the ball to Sergio Busquets, who simply turned on the spot with his foot on ball and waited for Barca's No. 10 to catch up.
Messi took the ball from the possession of the Spanish midfielder and dribbled past the helpless Real Madrid defence before rolling the ball past Iker Casillas.
Messi and Barcelona Conquer Man Utd. Again
After making it past rivals Real Madrid, Barcelona faced Manchester united once again in the Champions League final. This time they met at Wembley, where both sides claimed their first European titles.
After Pedro gave Barcelona the lead, Wayne Rooney equalised and the score was level at half-time. Barca outplayed their English opponents and they retook the lead just nine minutes after the restart.
Messi once again scored the second goal in a Champions League final against the English champions. Although the scoreline was now only 1-2, the game became more comfortable for the Spanish side who then got a third through David Villa.
The goal was the first time Messi managed to score on English soil at the ninth time of asking. Although, he still has not done it on a cold night in Stoke.
91 Goals in 2012
It was a record which stood for 40 years, but in 2012 Lionel Messi broke Gerd Muller's record for goals scored in a calender year.
In 1972, Muller scored 85 goals for club Bayern Munich and West Germany. It took four decades to break but Messi finally did so in a game against Real Betis. He scored his 85th and 86th goal of the year in a 2-1 win away to Betis.
Finally, away to Valladolid, Messi netted his 91st of the year during Barca's 3-1 win. In casual fashion the No. 10 nutmegged a defender before striking the ball low and hard with his favoured left foot across goal and into the back of the net.
Messi Is Awarded a Record 4th Ballon D'Or
Lionel Messi then broke another record by becoming the first four-time winner of the FIFA player of the year award, thanks to his record-shattering 91 goals.
Messi received 41.60 percent of the vote beating second-place Ronaldo once again, who received just 23.68 percent of the vote.
The Argentine said it was truly unbelievable to win a fourth Ballon d'Or and that he felt nervous. Whether that was down to his experiment wearing a polka-dot tuxedo jacket and tie or because of what he had achieved, only he knows.
It did mark an unbelievable year by even his standards as he surpassed both Zinedine Zidane and Il Fenomeno Ronaldo, who both won three FIFA world player of the year awards during their respective careers.