?We are truly privileged to be alive today, for we are witnesses to the phenomenal career of Lionel Andres Messi Cuccittini, born 24 June 1987.
The maestro has created unforgettable memories for a generation of football lovers, set records that may never be broken and left us all wondering whether we have seen the greatest player in the history of the sport. Have we? My friends, we have indeed.
Messi is mesmerising. He is majestic, a modern miracle who has graced the Camp Nou turf for over a decade, and we are likely to never find another player like him.
In homage to the Argentine and his glorious career, here’s a look at 32 magical Messi moments.
Barcelona Debut (2004)
The forward’s journey started on 16 October 2004 as then-coach Frank Rijkaard brought the teenager on for Portuguese midfielder Deco in a derby against Espanyol, making him the youngest player ever to represent the club.
It was only a brief ten-minute minute cameo, nothing to suggest that this kid would become a global icon, but it kick-started an incredible story.
First Goal for La Blaugrana? (2005)
Seven months on from his first appearance, Messi netted his maiden goal for ?Barcelona and it set the trend for what was to come. Leading and firmly in control against lowly Albacete, famed trickster Ronaldinho scooped a delicious through-ball over the top for his young teammate, who duly lobbed past the goalkeeper with an audacious half-volley.
Scoring on World Cup Debut ?(2006)
Messi had featured in friendlies for his national side, but nothing quite like a World Cup group stage fixture.
Brought on midway through the destruction of Serbia-Montenegro at the 2006 edition of the tournament, the playmaker finished off the scoring by latching onto a neat pass through the heart of the opposition defence and driving a low effort underneath Dragoslav Jevric.
Maiden Clasico Hat-Trick (2007)?
It became evident that this fresh-faced Argentine had a big future when he shocked the world with a marvellous hat-trick during a 3-3 classic with ?Real Madrid.
Los Blancos thrice took the lead, only to be pegged back on each occasion by an unstoppable Messi. First, it was a clinical effort into the bottom corner when through one-on-one, before he leathered home a rebound to take his tally to two.
However, the crowning moment was without doubt his third of the night, Messi parting Real like the red sea and arrowing a fierce shot beyond Iker Casillas.
Single-Handedly Shredding Getafe (2007)?
When people discuss the GOAT’s best goal, his Maradona-esque score against Getafe is invariably mentioned.
After dribbling past the half of the Azulones’ team with a blistering turn of pace, Leo rounded the keeper and slotted his effort in from a narrow angle, wheeling away in celebration in front of a speechless Camp Nou.
Olympic Gold with Argentina? (2008)
Messi has had a bittersweet career at international level, collecting personal accolades and being handed the captaincy, whilst also suffering several cruel defeats.
Nevertheless, he will always have an Olympic gold medal to cherish, having won the 2008 men’s tournament with Argentina in Beijing.
Angel Di Maria hit the decisive goal in the final as the South Americans defeated Nigeria 1-0 after knocking out Brazil and the Netherlands in the semis and quarters, respectively.
Being Ronaldinho’s Heir? (2008)
In his prime, Ronaldinho was simply unplayable. Children idolised the Brazilian wizard, whose splendid skill-set brought him to the top of the game.
At the time of his departure for ?Milan in 2008, Barça fans knew they had a player in the side who could fill such enormous boots. What they didn’t know is that Messi’s legacy would completely overshadow that of Ronaldinho.
That Header in the Champions League Final (2009)
Mr Barcelona was the butt of many jokes for his short stature. He shut his doubters up in the only way he knows how, nodding in the game-clinching goal in the 2009 ?Champions League final.
La Blaugrana held a single-goal lead over ?Manchester United when Xavi spotted Messi lurking towards the far post. It was doubled moments later, the latter arching his back to redirect the ball past a statuesque Edwin van der Sar.
Six Trophies in a Calendar Year (2009)?
Most clubs have never collected a major trophy. Some win the odd one every few seasons and there are also sides that fight for the quadruple year in, year out.
But, only one team has ever claimed six pieces of silverware in a single calendar year. That team is Barcelona, who – fuelled by their talismanic forward – delivered the Copa de Rey, La Liga, the European Cup, the UEFA Super Cup, the FIFA Club World Cup and the Supercopa de Espana to the Camp Nou in 2009.
This was a side that enjoyed unparalleled success and much of it would have been impossible without the little man.
Winning His First Ballon d’Or (2009)
The winger had a splendid calendar year in 2009 under Pe Guardiola, adding to that sextuple at Barça with his first Ballon d’Or scoop. Everybody was thinking it and it finally became official – Messi is the best footballer on the planet.
Scoring a Quadruple Against Arsenal (2010)
How does a Champions League hat-trick versus ?Arsenal sound? Not good enough for Leo, who decided another goal was needed to go home satisfied.
Trailing on aggregate having fallen behind early on at the Camp Nou, the Catalans got back into the contest when Messi unleashed a venomous volley from the edge of the box, taking the lead soon after courtesy of a clipped finish from their magic man.
It was a treble before half-time when he dinked the ball over a bamboozled Manuel Almunia, who must’ve been seeing stars when another mazy run from Messi ended with a rifle between the Spaniard’s legs.
Barça Demolish Real (2010)
Though he failed to get on the scoresheet during the 5-0 humbling of Real, Messi was instrumental in a monumental performance from Barcelona.
It was his artful passing that killed the match, twice finding David Villa with incisive through-balls early in the second period, with the hitman duly rounding off each move.
Late Semi Final Brace at the Bernabeu? (2011)
Pep Guardiola’s recruits lifted their second Champions League title in three campaigns in 2011, though they may not have made it to the showpiece event at Wembley if it hadn’t been for Messi’s intervention in the semi final.
With the first leg at the Bernabeu locked in stalemate, the academy graduate turned home an Ibrahim Afellay cross to hand his side a crucial advantage.
It got better minutes later, Messi gathering possession in the middle of the park, exploding beyond the would-be tacklers and driving straight at a terrified Real backline. No one stood a chance as Messi made his way into the area untouched, completing a 2-0 victory with a trickled-in effort.
Leading Argentina as Captain (2011)?
It is an enormous honour to captain one’s country, regardless of their size or footballing ability. However, when your nation has won two World Cups and lives for the sport, it is a truly immense achievement.
That is the case with Messi. He hasn’t always sparkled on the world stage, even stumbling on occasion, but he has shouldered the weight of a nation that expects nothing short of victory in each fixture.
Hitting Five Versus Bayer Leverkusen (2012)?
?This performance speaks for itself. Five glorious goals, each beautiful in its own way – how can anyone doubt this man’s position as the finest player to ever lace a pair of football boots?
Becoming ?Barça’s All-Time Leading Goalscorer (2012)
Granada were the unfortunate side against whom Messi set a new record for goals in a Barcelona jersey. The match ended 5-2 in the Catalans’ favour, with the Argentine unsurprisingly grabbing three goals.
It was his second of the night that broke the previous record held by Cesar Rodriguez, which stood at 232 in all competitions. Here’s a little context – Messi is now on 603…
Fourth Consecutive Ballon d’Or (2012)?
So, his first Ballon d’Or victory was a seminal moment in the young career of Lionel Messi. What does that make his fourth consecutive selection as the world’s greatest footballer?
91 Goals in a Calendar Year (2012)??
?Messi didn’t merely win the Ballon d’Or in 2012, he romped to victory after amassing a mind-boggling 91 goals that calendar year. That comfortably beat the previous highest total of 85, set by Gerd Muller during his time with ?Bayern Munich and Germany in 1972.
There’s no point talking up the Blaugrana legend’s achievement, those numbers are the work of a footballing genius and we all know it.
Setting a New El Clasico Scoring Record (2014)
Messi really knows how to celebrate in style. It was once again a treble that brought up this milestone, the Argentina skipper overtaking Alfredo Di Stefano as the top-scorer in El Clasico encounters.
Although two of his efforts were from the spot, this was another incredible display from the magician as he proved the difference in the 4-3 triumph.
Courage After the Death of Tito Vilanova (2014)?
Former Blaugrana coach Tito Vilanova lost his battle with cancer in the spring of 2014 and, in the game immediately following his untimely passing, it was Messi who paid a fitting tribute.
Barça trailed Villarreal 2-0 with a quarter of the contest left to play, eventually levelling thanks to a couple of own goals. Then Messi popped up with the winner as time slipped away, sparking emotional celebrations just two days after their former manager’s death.
Receiving the World Cup Golden Ball ?(2014)
Shrouded by Argentina’a extra-time defeat at the hands of Germany in the World Cup final, Messi collecting the tournament Golden Ball accolade for the best player has often been forgotten.
Yet, it remains a magnificent achievement. It is hotly-contested whether he deserved the award – mainly due to his underwhelming performance against Die Mannschaft – but that is inconsequential. The honour is his, even if the World Cup trophy is not.
Making Jerome Boateng a Laughing Stock (2015)?
A world-class player stands head and shoulders above those around him. That can certainly be said of Messi, who left Bayern’s Jerome Boateng flailing in a Champions League semi final clash.
The German was simply unable to keep up with his opponent’s masterful dribbling, collapsing on his backside as Messi drifted by and chipped over Manuel Neuer to seal victory.
Four Champions League Triumphs in a Decade (2015)?
Another record that speaks for itself, Barcelona’s decade-long domination of European football came concluded in Berlin, where they dismissed ?Juventus 3-1 to lift their fourth Champions League trophy since 2006.
Could they have done that without Messi?
A Stunner in the Copa del Rey Final (2015)
Spellbinding. Words don’t do justice to this extraordinary goal in the Copa del Rey final, which La Blaugrana won 3-1 against Athletic Bilbao. You can probably guess who was named man of the match.
Wrecking Eibar (2017)
In similar fashion to his goal against Bilbao, Messi navigated a route through a crowd of defenders to set up a one-on-one with Eibar’s Yoel.
The keeper had no chance, acting as a mere bystander whilst the GOAT slotted in a deadly shot at the near-post.
A Memorable Night at the Bernabeu (2017)
The 90-minutes were up at the Bernabeu and it was still 2-2 in El Clasico. The hosts were reduced to ten men following Sergio Ramos’ dismissal, but they’re holding firm.
Then, Messi happened. The world-beater emerged out of nowhere to fizz an effort into the back of the net. Madrid can’t believe it and neither can Barcelona, but Messi doesn’t care. He’s off to tell the Real crowd who’s boss.
Taking Over the Barcelona Captaincy (2018)?
Leading out Barcelona is arguably a greater honour than captaining one’s country. Fortunately, for him Messi has done both, completing his destiny at the Camp Nou by replacing fellow stalwart Andres Iniesta as the Blaugrana skipper.
Sublime Solo Performance at Wembley (2018)?
People used to say that Messi can’t produce against Premier League clubs. People have stopped saying that now.
If there was any lingering doubt, it was swept away by his immense performance against ?Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley last autumn, the Argentine somehow managing to orchestrate from deep and lead from the front as his team won 4-2.
That Free-Kick Versus Liverpool (2019)
?Liverpool may have ultimately toppled the La Liga champions with a stirring fightback at Anfield, but they were left in Messi’s wake as he brought up his tally to 600 goals in red and blue in the first leg.
Of course, that total couldn’t be reached with an ordinary goal, it had to be spectacular. 30-yards out and standing over a free-kick, no one was quite sure what he would do.
In one fell swoop, he sent a wondrous, curling attempt hurtling towards Alisson’s top right-hand corner, the Brazilian getting nowhere near as the world watched on in amazement.
Inflicting the Worst Week in Real’s History (2019)
27 February 2019: La Blaugrana dump Los Blancos out of the Copa del Rey, comfortably going through 4-1 on aggregate.
2 March 2019: Barcelona all but end their bitter rivals’ hopes of winning La Liga with a 1-0 victory in Madrid.
5 March 2019: Real are humiliated in their own back garden by a thrilling Ajax outfit, who tear them to shreds in a 4-1 triumph.
This seven-day nightmare was described by many as the worst week in Real Madrid’s history, a narrative that will bring plenty of joy to Catalonia after the hand Barça played in their downfall.
Overtaking Madrid’s Trophy Haul (Ongoing)?
When Messi made his debut for Barcelona, they trailed Madrid by a total of 61 major trophies to 72. That now stands at 96 and 92 in favour of the men from the north-east. I guess that’s just the Messi factor.
Loyalty to Barcelona (Ongoing)
For all the goals and tricks that Messi has provided over the years, nothing is quite as impressive as his loyalty to the club that raised him.
It has been a lovely 18-year association for both player and club. Barcelona are privileged to have him, but he has also been privileged to have them.