BARCELONA – Lionel Messi may lack a World Cup for Argentina, but his 10 years with Barcelona have seen him rewrite the history books and become symbolic with the club’s golden era.
Long before Messi made his debut for the Catalan club in the local derby with Espanyol on Oct. 16, 2004 at the aged of 17, news had spread about his extraordinary talents.
Sports newspapers in Spain had reported that there was an Argentine youngster who could be the new Maradona and take the world by storm.
But few would have imagined what an impact he was going to make in the game and for Barcelona in particular.
The fact that he arrived in Barcelona at all is thanks to the perseverance of his father, Jorge.
This was after he had exhausted the options of clubs in Argentina that would not pay or could not afford the growth hormone treatment the diminutive Lionel needed. He, then, looked overseas to Spain.
Barcelona’s then Technical Director, Carles Rexach, needed little time to be convinced by his potential and famously scribbled a quick contract on a serviette at the Pompeia tennis club with the player’s agents.
From there Messi, now 27, quickly passed through the youth ranks before he made his first-team debut.
His first goal came with a delicate chip in his sixth appearance in the final game of the season against Albacete.
He went on to be named player of the tournament as Argentina won the 2005 Under-20 World Championship and ahead of the new season in a friendly against Juventus at the Nou Camp.
The Italian Coach, Fabio Capello, remarked: “Bring me this little devil, I’ve never seen a kid of his age be so tricky. He looks like Maradona.”(Reuters/NAN)