Lionel Messi

Club Career:

Messi made his official debut for the first-team on 16 November 2003 aged 16 years and 145 days, in a friendly match against Porto. Less than a year later, Frank Rijkaard let him make his league debut against RCD Espanyol on 16 October 2004 (at 17 years and 114 days), becoming the third-youngest player ever to play for Barcelona and youngest club player who played in La Liga. This record was broken by Bojan Krkić in September 2007. When he scored his first senior goal for the club against Albacete Balompié on 1 May 2005, Messi was 17 years, ten months and seven days old, becoming the youngest to ever score in a La Liga game for Barcelona until it was again broken by Bojan Krkić in 2007, scoring from a Messi assist. Messi said about his ex-coach Rijkaard: "I'll never forget the fact that he launched my career, that he had confidence in me while I was only sixteen or seventeen."

2005–06 season- On 16 September, for the second time in three months, Barcelona announced an update to Messi's contract; this time it was improved to pay him as a first team member and extended until June 2014. Messi obtained Spanish citizenship on 26 September 2005 and was finally able to make his debut in the season's Spanish First Division. Messi's first home outing in the Champions League came on 27 September against Italian club Udinese. Fans at Barcelona's stadium, the Camp Nou, gave Messi a standing ovation upon his substitution, as his composure on the ball and passing combinations with Ronaldinho had paid dividends for Barcelona.

Messi netted six goals in 17 league appearances, and scored one Champions League goal in six. His season ended prematurely on 7 March 2006, however, when he suffered a muscle tear in his right thigh during the second leg of the second round Champions League tie against Chelsea. Rijkaard's Barcelona ended the season as champions of Spain and Europe.

2006–07 season- In the 2006–07 season, Messi established himself as a regular first team player, scoring 14 times in 26 matches. On 12 November, in the game against Real Zaragoza, Messi suffered a broken metatarsal, ruling him out for three months. Messi recuperated from his injury in Argentina, and his return to action came against Racing Santander on 11 February, where he came on as a second-half substitute. On 11 March, El Clásico saw Messi in top form, scoring a hat-trick to earn 10-man Barcelona a 3–3 draw, equalising three times, with the final equaliser coming in injury time. In doing so he became the first player since Iván Zamorano (for Real Madrid in the 1994–95 season) to score a hat-trick in El Clásico. Messi is also the youngest player ever to have scored in this fixture. Towards the end of the season he began finding the net more often; 11 of his 14 league goals for the season came from the last 13 games.

Messi also proved the "new Maradona" tag was not all hype, by nearly replicating Maradona's most famous goals in the space of the single season.On 18 April 2007, he scored two goals during a Copa del Rey semi-final against Getafe CF, one of which was very similar to Maradona's famous goal against England at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, known as the Goal of the Century. The world's sports press drew comparisons with Maradona, and the Spanish press labelled Messi as "Messidona". He ran about the same distance, 62 metres (203 ft), beat the same number of players (six, including the goalkeeper), scored from a very similar position, and ran towards the corner flag just as Maradona did in Mexico 21 years before. In a press conference after the game, Messi's team-mate Deco said: "It was the best goal I have ever seen in my life." Against RCD Espanyol Messi also scored a goal which was remarkably similar to Maradona's 'Hand of God' goal against England in the World Cup quarter-finals. Messi launched himself at the ball and connected with his hand to guide the ball past the goalkeeper Carlos Kameni. Despite protests by Espanyol players and replays showing it was clear handball, the goal stood.

2007–08 season- During the 2007-08 season, Messi scored five goals in a week leading Barcelona to the top four in La Liga. On 19 September he scored once as Barcelona defeated Lyon 3–0 at home in a Champions League match. He scored two goals against Sevilla FC on 22 September and then on 26 September, Messi scored another two goals in a 4–1 victory over Real Zaragoza. Next goal came in 4-1 away win against Levante UD in 29 September 2007. His second Champions League goal of the season came against VfB Stuttgart. On 27 February, Messi played in his 100th official match for Barcelona against Valencia.

Messi was nominated for a FIFPro World Xi Player Award under the category of Forward. A poll conducted in the online edition of the Spanish newspaper Marca had him as the best player in the world with 77 percent of the vote. Columnists from Barcelona-based newspapers EI Mundo Deportivo and Sport stated that the Ballon dO’r should be given to Messi, a view supported by Franz Beckenbauer. Football personalities such as Francesco totti have declared that they consider Messi to be one of the current best footballers in the world.

Messi was sidelined for six weeks following an injury on 4 March when he suffered a muscle tear in his left thigh during a Champions League match against Celtic. It was the fourth time in three seasons that Messi suffered this type of injury. After coming back from the injury Messi scored his last goal of 2007–08 season against Valencia on 4 May 2008 in a 6–0 win. When the season was over Messi managed to score 16 goals and assisted 13 times in all competition.

2008–09 season- Upon Ronaldinho's departure from the club, Messi inherited his number 10 jersey. On 1 October 2008, during a Champions League match against Shakhtar Donetsk, Messi scored two goals during the last seven minutes, after coming on as a substitute for Thierry Henry, to turn a 1–0 deficit to a 2–1 victory for Barcelona. The next league game was versus Atletico Madrid, a match billed as a friendly battle between Messi and his good friend Sergio Aguero. Messi scored a goal from a free kick and assisted another as Barça went on to win the match 6–1. Messi netted another impressive brace against Sevilla scoring a volley from 23 metres (25 yd) and then dribbling round the goalkeeper and scoring from a tight angle for the other. On 13 December 2008, during the first Clásico of the season, Messi scored the second goal in Barcelona's 2–0 win over Real Madrid. He was also named second in the 2008 Fifa World Player of the year awards with 678 points.

Messi scored his first hat-trick of 2009 in a Copa del Rey tie against Atlético Madrid which Barcelona won 3–1. Messi scored another important double on 1 February 2009, coming on as a second half substitute to help Barcelona defeat Racing Santander 1–2 after being 1–0 down. The second of the two strikes was Barcelona's 5000th league goal. In the 28th round of La Liga, Messi scored his 30th goal of the season in all competitions, helping his team to a 6–0 victory over Malaga CF in the process. On 8 April 2009, he scored twice against Bavern Munich in the Champions League, setting a personal record of eight goals in the competition. On 18 April, Messi notched his 20th league goal of the season in a 1–0 win at Getafe, allowing Barcelona to maintain their six-point advantage at the top of the league table over Real Madrid.

As Barcelona's season was drawing to a close, Messi scored twice (his 35th and 36th goals in all competitions) to cap a 6–2 win over Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu in what was Real's heaviest defeat since 1930. After scoring each goal, he ran towards the fans and the cameras lifting up his Barcelona jersey and showing another T-shirt that read Síndrome X Fràgil, Catalan for Fragile X Syndrome, to show his support for children who suffer from the affliction. Messi was involved in the build-up to Andres Iniesta 's injury time goal against Chelsea in the Champions League semi-final to send Barcelona through to face Manchester United in the final. He won his first Copa del Rey on 13 May, scoring one goal and assisting another two, in a 4–1 victory over Athletic Bilbao. He helped his team win the double by winning La Liga. On 27 May he helped Barcelona win the Champions League by scoring a second goal in the 70th minute giving Barcelona a two goal lead; he also became the top scorer in the Champions League, the youngest in the tournament's history, with nine goals. Messi also won the UEFA Club Forward of the year: and the UEFA Club Footballer of the year rounding off a spectacular year in Europe. This victory meant Barcelona had won the Copa del Rey, La Liga and Champions League in the one season, and was the first time a Spanish club had ever won the treble.

2009–10 season- After winning the 2009 UEFA Super Cup, Barcelona manager Josep Guardiola asserted that Messi was probably the best player he had ever seen. On 18 September, Messi signed a new contract with Barcelona, running until 2016 and with a buy-out clause of €250 million included, making Messi, along with Zlatan Ibrahimobic, the highest paid players in La Liga, with earnings of around €9.5 million yearly. Four days later, on 22 September, Messi scored two goals and assisted another in Barça's 4–1 win over Racing Santander in La Liga. He scored his first European goal of the season on 29 September in a 2–0 win over Dynamo kyiv, and then took his goal tally to six goals in seven games in La Liga with a strike during a 6–1 routing of Real Zaragoza at Camp Nou.

Messi was named winner of the 2009 Ballon d’Or on 1 December 2009, beating runner-up Christiano Ronaldo by largest ever margin of 473 to 233. Afterwards, France Football magazine quoted Messi as saying: "I dedicate it to my family. They were always present when I needed them and sometimes felt even stronger emotions than me."

On 19 December, Messi scored the winner in the final of the 2009 Club World Cup against Estudiantes in Abu Dhabi, giving the club their sixth title of the year. Two days later, he was given the Fifa World player of the year award, beating Cristiano Ronaldo, Xavi, Kaka and Andres Iniesta to the award. This was the first time he had won the award, and he became the first Argentinean to ever receive this honour. On 10 January 2010, Messi scored his first hat-trick in 2010 and his first hat-trick of the season against CD Tenerife in the 0–5 victory, and on 17 January he scored his 100th goal for the club in the 4–0 victory over Sevilla.

Messi then started an impressive run scoring 11 goals in five games. First he scored on the 84th minute against Malaga for a 2–1 win, then he scored two goals against UD Almeria in a 2–2 tie. He continued his spree with an impressive week where he scored eight goals; he started by scoring a hat-trick against Valencia CF in a 3–0 home win, then he scored two goals against Stuttgart, in a 4–0 win that secured Barcelona's qualification to the quarterfinals of the Champions League, and finally he scored another hat-trick against Zaragoza in a 4–2 away win, becoming the first Barcelona player to score back-to-back hat-tricks in La Liga. He played his 200th official match for Barcelona against Osasuna on 24 March 2010.

On 6 April 2010, for the first time in Messi's career he scored four goals in a single match, netting the lot in a 4–1 home win over Arsenal in the Champions League quarter-finalSecond leg. This also saw him overtake Rivaldo as Barcelona's all time greatest scorer in the competition. On 10 April, Messi scored his 40th goal of the season when he netted the first goal in a 2–0 away win against title-rivals Real Madrid in EI Clasico. On 1 May, Messi played his 50th game of the season and scored two goals on a 4–1 away win againstVillarreal. Just three days later, on 4 May, Messi scored two goals in another 4–1 win at home against Tenerife. Messi scored his 32nd goal of the La Liga season on 8 May, during an away win against Sevilla, and in the final match against Valladolid, he scored two goals in the second half to tie Ronaldo’s club record of 34 goals in a single league season, set in 1996-97, and to finish four goals behind the all-time record held by Telmo Zarra. He was named La Liga player of the year for the second year in a row on 3 June 2010.

2010–11 season-  On 21 August 2010, Messi scored a hat-trick in his first start of the season in a 4–0 victory over Sevilla FC in the Supercopa deEsparia, helping Barcelona secure their first trophy of the season after a 1–3 first leg loss. He also began his league season with a goal, scoring after just three minutes against Racing Santander on 29 August 2010. He then continued his excellent form into the UEFA Champions League group stage match against Panathinaikos where he scored two goals, assisted another two and also hit the frame of the goal on two separate occasions.

On 19 September 2010, Messi suffered an ankle injury due to an ill-advised tackle by Atletico Madrid defender Tomas Ujfalusi in the 92nd minute of their Round 3 match at the Vicente Calderon Stadium. At first sight it was feared that Messi suffered a broken ankle that could have kept the star player away from the pitch for a minimum of six months, but MRI performed the next day in Barcelona showed he suffered a sprain in the internal and external ligaments of his right ankle. Team-mate David Villa stated "the tackle on Messi was brutal" after watching the video of the play and also added that he believed the Atlético defender "didn't go into the tackle to hurt". The incident caused widespread media attention and brought up the debate of equality in protecting all players in the game.

When Messi recovered he scored in a 1–1 tie against RCD Mallorca. He then scored another brace on the UEFA Champions League against Kobenhavn and helped the team to a 2–0 home win. He continued his impressive scoring run with braces against Zaragoza and Sevilla. After a prolific October, he started November scoring on an away 1–1 tie against København and an away 3–1 win against Getafe where he also assisted team-mates David Villa and Pedro Rodriguez. In the next fixture against Villarreal CF, he scored an amazing goal combining with Pedro, which gave Barcelona a 2–1 lead. He scored another goal and Barcelona won 3–1. This was the 7th consecutive match in which Messi scored, breaking his own previous record of 6. He also achieved the feat of scoring 50 goals in the calender year of 2010 with the 1st goal, while with the second goal, he achieved the same feat again, this time considering the goals he scored wearing a Barcelona shirt in the year 2010. Against Almeria he scored his second hat-trick of the season in an impressive 8–0 away win, the second goal was his 100th La Liga goal. He scored on his ninth game in a row (10th including a friendly against Brazil) on a 3–0 away win against Panathinaikos.

Messi's goalscoring run ended on 29 November at EI Clasico but Barcelona still managed to win 5–0 with Messi assisting Villa twice. The next match day he scored a brace and gave an assist against Osasuna. He followed with another brace against Real Sociedad. In EI Derbi, a match Barcelona won 1-5, he assisted teammates Pedro and Villa to score one goal each. His first goal in 2011 came against Deportivo LaCoruna with a free kick on a 4–0 away win, where he once again assisted both Pedro and Villa.

Messi won the 2010 Fifa Ballon d”Or, beating his Barcelona teammates Xavi and Iniesta. Messi had been nominated for the awards for the fourth consecutive year. Only two days after he won the award he scored his first hat-trick of the year and third of the season againstReal Betis. He began the second round of the league with a goal, scoring his second penalty against Racing Santander. After scoring the penalty kick, Messi revealed a message on his undershirt that said, "Happy birthday, mami.". He continued his goalscoring form with a brace against Almeria in the Copa del Rey semifinal, and followed it up with another brace less than a week later againstHercules CF. On 5 February, Barcelona broke the record for most consecutive league wins with 16 victories after they defeated Atlético Madrid 3–0 at the Camp Nou. Lionel Messi scored a hat-trick to ensure the victory for his side and after the match he stated, "it's an honor to be able to pass a record set by a great like Di Stefano " and "if the record has been around for so long is because it's very complicated to achieve and we have reached it by defeating a very difficult team who's going through a bad situation, which makes it even more difficult."

After two scoreless games he scored the winner against Athletic Bilbao in which Barcelona won 2–1. The next week he scored the first header of the season against Mallorca on a 3–0 away win. This victory was the equalising a La Liga record set by Basque club Real Sociedad in the 1979–80 campaign with a 19 unbeaten away matches. The record was broken after three days later when Messi scored the only goal on an away victory over Valencia. On 8 March, Messi scored two goals against Arsenal in a UEFA Champions League match at the Camp Nou, helping Barcelona win 3–1 and qualify to the quarter-finals of the competition. After failing to score for a month he scored a brace against Almeria; the second goal was his 47th of the season, equalling his club record return of the previous season. He surpassed his record on 12 April 2011 by scoring the winner against Shakhtar Donetsk in a UEFA Champions League game, which put him in the record book as all time top scorer in a single season for Barcelona. He scored his eight goal on EI clasico on a 1–1 tie at the Santiago bernabeu Stadium . On 23 April, Messi scored his 50th goal of the season against Osasuna in a 2–0 home victory which he came on as a substitute in the 60th minute.

In the first leg of the Champions League semi-finals he gave a memorable performance, scoring twice against Real Madrid in a 2–0 win, the second goal (a dribble past several players) being acclaimed as one of the best ever at that stage of the competition.