Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard pulled out goal-scorer Deco to send in a long-haired teenager for the final nine minutes of the match against its Catalan rival Espanyol. A 17-year-old Lionel Messi almost scored a goal on his debut when he escaped current Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino, who was playing centre-back for Espanyol in the match.
He had to wait seven and half months to get his first professional goal and in a team full of heavyweights like Ronaldinho, Deco and Samuel Eto, Messi took his time to adapt to life in the first team.
Soon enough, the nimble-footed Argentine was becoming a nightmare for defences in Spain and across Europe. Though he scored just one goal in the 2005-06 season, his display in the Champions League against Chelsea in Stamford Bridge was an indicator for the greater things to come.
When Pep Guardiola was handed the reigns of the senior team in 2008, he decided to play him as a False Nine which elevated Messi's game to new heights. It started with the 6-2 decimation of Real Madrid in the El Clasico and culminated in Barcelona winning its first ever treble where Messi scored against Manchester United in the Champions League final.
In 2011-12 season, Messi scored 50 goals in 38 matches which is still the highest by any player in a single season. In his 14 seasons in Barcelona, Messi has nine La Liga, four Champions League titles to go with his five Ballon d'Or awards.
It's two years since Messi last won a Ballon d'or and he is an outside candidate for the third successive year in 2018 despite leading the Cules to the La Liga crown.
After being handed over the captaincy in his fifteenth year at the club, Messi has started the season with a flourish with 11 goals in 11 appearances. If he manages to keep up with this rate, the little magician may crown a landmark year with more trophies and accolades.
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