Today marks 20 years since the moment a young Argentine prodigy named Lionel Messi began his legendary football career.
On the 16th of November 2003, Messi stepped onto the turf of Camp Nou as he debuted for Barcelona. At just 16 years old, his addition to the team was an indication of the magic we would all come to witness from his left boot. But still, nobody quite knew that this day would mark the beginning of one of the greatest careers in the history of sports.
Messi's debut came under Frank Rijkaard at the Do Dragao Stadium, where he was subbed on for Fernando Navarro in the 71st minute of a friendly match against FC Porto, sporting the number 14. Despite not making a huge impact in this match, his quality was clear and he was regularly turning out for the Barcelona 'B' team in next-to-no time.
Roughly a year later, aged 17 years, three months and 22 days, Messi made his move up to the first team in a game against Catalan rivals Espanyol on 16 October 2004.
Wearing the No.30 shirt on the right flank, he didn't manage to score or assist in the 1-0 win. But in his mere 8 minutes on the pitch, there were plenty of impressive touches and passages of play that would go on to become a staple of his game.
From this moment forward, Messi dominated the Spanish league for years to come. One of the most memorable moments in his Barcelona career was in the 2008-2009 season when he helped the club secure an unprecedented six-trophy haul, including the UEFA Champions League, La Liga league title, Copa del Rey, Supercopa de España, UEFA Super Cup, and FIFA Club World Cup.
In his time wearing red and blue, Messi scored a record-breaking 672 goals and won 10 La Liga titles, 6 Copa del Reys, 4 Champions Leagues and three Club World Cups, alongside 6 Ballon d'Ors.
Sadly, following some financial difficulties for Barcelona, Messi was transferred to Paris Saint Germain in the summer of 2021 to bring an end to his 17-year stint in La Liga.
I would have liked to have tried to won another Champions League. We got knocked out in the semi-final against Liverpool, which stopped us getting to another final. We got to the semi-final against Chelsea with Pep [Guardiola] and they prevented us from getting to a final. There could have been a time where we won another Champions League, but that's football.
Despite the difficult move away from Barca, Messi went on to lift the golden shoe again in 2021 after his impressive performance with PSG - bringing his total to 7 Ballon d'Or wins (the most of all time). And his accolades still haven't stopped rolling in...
Messi went on to dominate the 2022 FIFA World Cup and produced one of the best World Cup finals of all time. The Argentinian faced off against Kylian Mbappe in what looked to be an almost 1-on-1 battle for the prestigious cup. Despite an impressive battle from the French side - in which Mbappe scored a hattrick in just 28 game minutes - Messi & Co. managed to secure the win in a penalty shootout.
After adding the most prestigious trophy in football to his cabinet, Messi made the move to Inter Miami in June 2023. This should be a comfortable league for Messi to continue to show his skills alongside a hefty payday.
His Miami debut came on July 22nd 2023, and was reportedly the most watched football game in USA television history, drawing 12.5 million viewers for the game against Cruz Azul. And for good reason...
In true Messi-fashion, he came on in the 57th minute and broke the 1-1 scoreline in stoppage time on the last kick of the game.
The score is 1-1 in the 94th minute. Lionel Messi has a free-kick on the edge of the box on his Inter Miami debut 🇺🇸🦩— SPORTbible (@sportbible) July 22, 2023
The rest is history… 🐐🇦🇷pic.twitter.com/HztT5L9frZ
He followed up his iconic debut with a 2-goal, 1-assist game against Atlanta United. It seems that Messi will continue adding to his impressive legacy despite moving outside the top 5 leagues for the first time in his career.
From the moment he touched the turf at Camp Nou 20 years ago today, Messi was destined for greatness. Although the debate between Ronaldo and Messi for the greatest football player of all time continues to thrive. In my opinion, Messi has cemented his name as the true GOAT of football, and one of the greatest icons in the history of all sports.
Do you think he'll return to Europe after his stint in the US? Or will Messi conclude his career in Miami under the tutelage of David Beckham?
(Header Image Credit: Kyle Terada - USA TODAY Sports)