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10 years of Messi: The moments which made the superstar

10 years of Messi: The moments which made the superstar

Posted by Juan Gavasa on October 16, 2014

Lionel Messi celebrates 10 years since making his Liga debut for Barcelona today, and what a ride it has been. He has defined an era, along with his arch rival Cristiano Ronaldo, and become one of the greatest sporting icons of all time, winning six Liga titles, two Copa del Reys and three Champions Leagues.

As he celebrates a decade in the game, here are the 10 moments which made Messi the superstar he is today.

The legend begins: Everything started on October 16, 2004 in a league match against Espanyol, when a player aged just 17 years, three months and 22 days entered the field of play as a substitute for Deco. Messi was wearing the No. 30 shirt with his future No. 10 jersey still being occupied by the great Ronaldinho.

That first goal: It took seven and a half months for Messi to score his first goal for Barcelona and it came against Albacete at Camp Nou on May 1, 2005. Ronaldinho scooped a pass over the top of the Albacete defence and Messi displayed the imagination and ability that were to become his trademarks when deftly lobbing the keeper.

A Clasico hat-trick: At just 19 years of age, Messi served notice of his extreme aptitude in the very biggest games when scoring all three goals in a thrilling 3-3 draw at home to Real Madrid. Those watching live would never forget the impression made by a player already well on his way to becoming one of the world’s best.

The new Maradona: It is a term that has been applied to so many emergent Argentinians – from Pablo Aimar to Ezequiel Lavezzi – but no other player has been able to produce a carbon copy of Maradona’s most famous ever goal. That’s precisely what Messi did in April 2007 against Getafe, just a month after his Clasico hat-trick.

The perfect 10: It was not until the appointment of Pep Guardiola as Barcelona manager in the summer of 2008 that Messi’s talent was allowed to really explode, as he was switched from a wide position to a false 10 role – a decision which Guardiola explained came at the home of Real Madrid late on in the season. Messi ended the campaign with a Liga, Copa del Rey and Champions League treble.

On top of the world: Messi’s success in inspiring Barcelona to an amazing six trophies in the calendar year of 2009 – adding the Spanish Super Cup, European Super Cup and Club World Cup – saw him rightly recognised officially as the best player on the planet for the first time as he secured the Ballon d’Or award and FIFA World Player of the Year award in 2009. He went on to claim top billing again in 2010, 2011 and 2012.

The third Champions League: Messi missed the 2006 final against Arsenal due to injury but still picked up a winners’ medal, and then collected a second when Manchester United were defeated in Rome in 2008. His hat-trick of wins in the best club competition in football came via a seminal Barcelona performance as they swept United away again in a 3-1 win at Wembley in 2011. This was arguably the apogee of tiki-taka. As Sir Alex Ferguson admitted: “Great teams do go in cycles and they're at the peak of the cycle they're in at the moment. They're the best in Europe, no question about that. In my time as a manager, I would say they're the best team we've faced. Everyone acknowledges that and I accept that. It's not easy when you've been well beaten like that to think another way. No one has given us a hiding like that.”

In the record books: In what was Messi’s most prolific ever season and year, it was only right that he broke Barcelona’s all-time goalscoring record with three goals in a Liga game against Granada in March 2012. That took him past the mark of 232 set by Cesar Rodriguez. Messi was only 24. Two and a half years later, he now has 361.

The magic 50: Witnessing a player score a half-century of goals in just one league season felt like something from the 19th Century and the days of 2-2-8 formations. Footballers in the modern era are simply not supposed to be that dominant and destructive. Yet, incredibly, Messi managed to score a previously unthinkable amount of goals in the 2011-12 season, smashing all known records in Spain, as well as bagging 14 goals in the Champions League, including five in one game against Bayer Leverkusen.

Beating Der Bomber: Gerd Mueller’s record of 85 goals for club and country in a single year looked to be one of sport’s unbeatable records – football’s own version of Mike Powell’s long jump record of 8.95m, set in 1991. Yet off the back off his 50-goal Liga campaign, Messi continued his prodigious strike-rate into the following season, and remarkably notched a total of 91 for Argentina and Barcelona in 2012. Once again, Messi had redefined the boundaries of what we thought was possible in football.

The Golden Boy: Brazil 2014 could have been arguably the greatest moment in Messi’s career. He had performed superbly in the group stages of the World Cup and helped Argentina progress with some great goals and decisive contributions. As a result of this, he was a rather controversial winner of the Golden Ball award for the best player of the tournament – controversial because after a gruelling campaign his form deserted him when he most needed it and he was too quiet in a final won in extra-time by Germany. World Cup success remains elusive for Messi, the only question mark against one of the great football careers.

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