Lionel Messi's Career so Far in 25 Pictures

Tre' Atkinson@@TreAtkinsonFeatured ColumnistDecember 18, 2013

Lionel Messi's Career so Far in 25 Pictures

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    Lionel Messi's story is not one of overcoming adversity, rather it is one of thriving. He has already accomplished more in his career than almost any other footballer in history.

    From seasons of six trophies and 91 goals to lifting four consecutive Ballon d'Or awards, Messi has done it all. It is a bit scary to think that he is still only 26 years old.

    Messi isn't even close to being finishing at this pointhe still has much to achieve.

    The Argentine dreams of winning more trophies at Barcelona, and even more personal awards are sure to come. And we cannot forget that World Cup trophy which has eluded him for so long.

    Messi may go down as the greatest footballer of all time, and for some he already is. The little boy from Rosario is now the face of football, and the game has become even better because of him.

    To this point his career, Messi is something to marvel at. Though all eyes are fixed forward, it is sometimes good to just take a look back.

    Though it is impossible to put the career of Lionel Messi into only 25 pictures, that is exactly what we have attempted with this article. Let us know what you think!

Messi and His Mentors

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    Messi made his debut long before he was 18. He was the standout player for the youth teams of Barcelona, and everyone took notice of his skill.

    Though his debut with the first team was a magnificent milestone, nothing compares with what he learned from Ronaldinho in the early stages of his career.

    Messi can thank his former Brazilian mentor for helping him become the player he is today. Many are hoping Messi will be the same mentor for Neymar; it is only fitting.

An Odd Debut

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    Denis Doyle/Getty Images

    Messi's debut with the Argentina national team did not really go as planned.

    At the tender age of 18, Messi made his international debut on August 17, 2005, when Argentina was facing off with Hungary. The young forward came on in the 63rd minute but was sent off in the 65th minute after the referee showed him a red card.

    For the prodigy, this was an absolute nightmare. He spoke about the sending-off after the game and was quoted by ESPNFC.com as saying, "It wasn't the way I dreamed it would be."

The Hat Trick

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    Denis Doyle/Getty Images

    Lionel Messi officially became Barcelona's hero in 2007 when he scored his first hat trick against Real Madrid.

    Barcelona played over half of the match with only 10 men, but Real Madrid was not able to take advantage. Every time Los Blancos scored, Messi answered with an equalizer.

    The Argentine capped off his hat trick in stoppage time to level the score at 3-3 and win the hearts of millions. He may have been a well-known player before that El Clasico meeting, but he left the stadium with fans absolutely speechless.

100 Matches

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    Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images

    Messi played his 100th official match with Barcelona against Valencia on February 27, 2008. It may not seem like that big of a milestone, but it actually shows a lot.

    The Argentine was now one of the key figures for Barcelona. It didn't take him long to to earn a regular place in the Catalan lineup, and he has been one of the faces of the club ever since.

    No one really knew what Messi would do in the years following. At the time, playing in 100 games was massive, but what he has done since surely was not fully expected.

Olympic Gold

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    Messi finally put his mark on the Argentina national team in the summer of 2008. The young forward led the South Americans to the Olympics and walked away with a gold medal.

    At the time, many could have considered it his crowning achievement. Messi was quickly becoming a feared and respected player, and everyone began to expect even more.

    However, the World Cup trophy still eludes the boy from Rosario. Surely, lifting that trophy is his biggest desire.

Barcelona's New No. 10

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    Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

    When Ronaldinho left the club in 2008, there was a bit of worry over what would happen next. Fans questioned who would take his place and if the club would suffer from his departure.

    Then Messi stepped up.

    The Argentine was handed Ronaldinho's No. 10 shirt and has been wearing it ever since. Seeing Messi's name above the No. 10 is recognized around the world today, and it all started when his Brazilian mentor left.

World Cup Qualifying

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    Photogamma/Getty Images

    Messi also wore the No. 10 shirt for Argentina for the first time when the team defeated Venezuela 4-0 in 2009. The Barcelona forward opened the scoring and put in a dominant display that showed he could also compete at a high level internationally.

    This was also the first match in which Diego Maradona featured as manager. That didn't last long, but Messi's presence has been felt ever since.

First Champions League

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    Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

    This picture tells an important story. In May of 2009, Barcelona lifted the Champions League trophy, which was the first time Messi had done so.

    By many, this Barcelona team will be remembered as the greatest that ever existed. So many stars were present for the Catalans' great run, but one stood out.

    This was the first season in which Messi truly took his place as the face of the team. Messi was now the leader and the player who would have the ball at his feet when Barcelona needed magic.

    The world could not ignore Messi anymorehe was officially the best.

Officially the Best

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    Pascal Muller/Getty Images

    For his exploits, Lionel Messi finally got the recognition he deserved when he was named the world's best player in 2009.

    Barcelona had capped off a year of winning six trophies, and it was fitting that Messi was also awarded the ultimate personal award. He was leading the best team on the planet, and no one could doubt that.

    But Messi was just getting started.

Putting Four Goals Past Arsenal

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    Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

    On April 6, 2010, Messi would have one of the most dominant performances in Champions League history.

    Barcelona hosted Arsenal at the Camp Nou in Champions League play, and Messi showed the world just what he could do. He ended up putting four goals past the Gunners to help the Catalans win 4-1.

    Scoring four goals in the Champions League is not an easy feat. It has rarely been done, and you can rest assured that it will go down as one of the best performances in European history.

Making Maradona Proud

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    Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

    This picture is fairly well known and shows the relationship that Messi had with former Argentina coach Diego Maradona.

    At the 2010 World Cup, Messi again became a leader. Teammates turned to him when he was needed most, and the Barcelona forward always seemed to answer the call.

    Though Maradona's tactics hurt Argentina in several ways, Messi refused to be beaten. In the end, he was not able to do enough to claim the glory for his country.

Captain Messi

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    During the World Cup, Messi also wore the captain's armband for the very first time for Argentina. It came in a match where the South Americans saw off Greece in a 2-0 victory.

    Messi was involved in both of Argentina's goals and was named the man of the match. Wearing the captain's armband for Argentina has always been a very big deal, and Messi has been wearing it ever since.

Messi's Second Ballon D'Or

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    Michael Steele/Getty Images

    Messi was again named the world's best player for 2010 when he was handed the coveted Ballon d'Or trophy beating out both Xavi and Andres Iniesta.

    The Barcelona man had an incredible season for both club and country and was showing no signs of slowing down. It was the second time in a row that he had been recognized as the best in the world, but it would not be the last.

"Happy Birthday Mom"

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    David Ramos/Getty Images

    Messi's first moment of trouble came in January of 2011 and was odd, to say the least.

    After scoring a penalty against Racing Santander, he lifted up his shirt to show "Happy birthday, Mami" written underneath. The referee did not show him a card, and play resumed as usual.

    However, a few days later, Messi would be fined by the Spanish federation and received a yellow card for his actions. His mother was probably proud despite her son getting in trouble.

One of the Greatest Goals Ever

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    Alex Livesey/Getty Images

    During Barcelona's search for another Champions League trophy, they met up with Real Madrid. Though every El Clasico meeting is demanding, this one would belong to Lionel Messi, who led Barcelona to a 2-0 victory.

    After a long match of arguing and rough play, Messi took the game into his own hands with only a few minutes left to play. He took the ball and dribbled past five defenders before calmly and beautifully beating Iker Casillas in the box.

    This goal has since been shown thousands of times. It was one of the most beautiful goals ever scored in the Champions League and will always be remembered.

Champions League Final Goal

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    Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

    Weeks after Barcelona surpassed Real Madrid, they met up with Manchester United in the Champions League final.

    Pedro would open up the scoring, but Wayne Rooney quickly responded to level the score. Just 10 minutes into the second half, Messi would work his magic.

    Messi blasted a long-range shot that gave Barcelona the 2-1 lead and celebrated like a little kid. David Villa would add a third goal, and Barcelona would be crowned champions.

    The picture above is from Messi's celebration. I, for one, will never forget it. He looked like a little kid who loved football more than anything. He made all the problems in the world go away for just a few seconds.

Messi's Second Champions League Trophy

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    Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

    Barcelona lifted their second Champions League trophy in three years that day. Like the trophy won in 2009, the Catalans were a team to marvel at.

    Led by the likes of Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets, Barcelona had it all. But they also had something that no other team did—Lionel Messi.

Spanish Supercopa Glory

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    Barcelona and Messi began the new season the same way they ended the previous one: by winning trophies. 

    The Catalans met up with Real Madrid before the domestic campaign even began and faced in a heated battle for the Spanish Supercopa. Messi would again be the hero.

    The second leg was more fearsome than the first, and with the score level at 2-2, there was no end in sight. Then Messi came out of nowhere with only a couple of minutes left to stun Real Madrid by scoring Barcelona's third goal.

    Messi had won the Supercopa for Barcelona as he had helped the club win so many others.

Meeting Neymar

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    Neymar had the pleasure of meeting and playing against Lionel Messi in December of 2011 as Barcelona and Santos squared off in the final of the Club World Cup.

    Rumors had been swirling for months about where Neymar would be heading when he made the trip to Europe, and his decision might have been made when he met Messi.

    Barcelona eased to a 4-0 victory with Messi scoring a brace. It went just how you would have expected, but you could see the awe in Neymar's eyes. Perhaps that is why he is now wearing the Blaugrana shirt.

Messi's Third Ballon D'Or

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    For the third consecutive year, Lionel Messi was recognized as the best player in the world for 2011. He became only the fourth player to have ever won the trophy three times.

    It seemed as though Messi was getting even better by the second. His talent was growing, and it was easy to forget that he was still very young at the time.

    Messi's career was already greater than most players could ever hope for, and he was nowhere near being done.

Becoming Barcelona's Leading Scorer

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    David Ramos/Getty Images

    Messi would again find his name in the record book in March of 2012. His hat trick against Granada at the Camp Nou would see him become Barcelona's all-time leading scorer.

    He equaled Cesar Rodriguez's 232 goals early in the match and then went on to chip the keeper in the 68th minute to become the club's top scorer. And just for good measure, Messi added a third at the end of the game.

    Becoming Barcelona's top scorer is a very serious and important moment in Messi's carer. But his feat becomes even more outstanding when you consider that he was only 24 years old.

Hat Trick Against Brazil

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    After his season with Barcelona came to a close, Messi joined Argentina for a friendly against rivals Brazil in June of 2012. 

    Argentina would eventually win the game by a narrow 4-3 scoreline, but the most outstanding part of the match was that Messi scored a hat trick in the process.

    It was Messi's first dominant display against Brazil and showed how much he valued playing for Argentina. Though it was only a friendly, it will go down as one of his best ever international games.

Surpassing Gerd Muller

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    David Ramos/Getty Images

    In December of 2012, Lionel Messi did the unthinkable. He scored a brace against Real Betis to tie and then surpass Gerd Muller's record of 85 goals in a calendar year.

    As Messi approached the record, it always looked like something from a video game. He passed Pele's record on the way and eventually ended the year having scored a total of 91 goals.

    Messi's year of 2012 may go down as the single most spectacular year a footballer has ever had.

Messi's Fourth Consecutive Ballon D'Or

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    There was no question about who would be winning the Ballon d'Or for the 2012 season. After all the records Messi broke that year, it was no surprise when his name was called to receive his fourth consecutive Ballon d'Or trophy.

    Messi became the first player to ever win the award four times, and he did so consecutively. Messi was only 25 years old at the time.

    However, for all that Messi accomplished up to this point, you would think he could afford a better suit.

Magic over Milan

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    In March of 2013, Barcelona had a mountain to climb. As the Catalans hosted AC Milan at the Camp Nou, they needed to overcome a 2-0 aggregate scoreline to advance to the next round of the Champions League.

    Five minutes into the game, Messi scored one of the most unbelievable goals of his career. The fans roared, and hope grew. By halftime, Messi had doubled Barcelona's lead.

    In the second half, David Villa and Jordi Alba would put the finishing touches on the match as Barcelona's magic saw them overcome Milan 4-0 in one of the most spectacular comebacks in Champions League history.

     

    These are just 25 incredible moments of the career of Lionel Messi. To count them all would take a very long time. But we want to hear what you have to say.

    Please leave your thoughts and comments below!