15 years of Messi magic: Leo’s best bits in a Barca shirt (VIDEO)
It’s 15 years to the day since Lionel Messi made his senior debut for Barcelona, with the ensuing decade and a half seeing the Argentine magician etch his name firmly into the history books as one of the game’s all-time greats.
Aged 16, Messi made his senior Barca bow when he came off the bench in a 2-0 friendly defeat against a Porto team managed by Jose Mourinho back in 2003.
In honor of the anniversary of the game that set Messi on his trophy-laden path with Barca, the Catalan club have released a throwback interview with the fresh-faced player who was destined for stardom.
Messi, 31, has gone on to illuminate stages all around the world with his spellbinding skills and sumptuous goals, and in honor of today’s landmark RT Sport has a tribute of its own with some of Messi’s best moments in a Barca shirt. Enjoy.
First Barca goal (2005)
Messi has bagged 566 goals - and counting - in the famous Barca colors, but the first came on May 1, 2005, against Albacete at the Nou Camp.
Making the most of a sublime lobbed pass from Blaugrana icon Ronaldinho, Messi casually lofted the ball over the ‘keeper to pop his Barca goal-scoring cherry.
It was a wonderful finish that opened the floodgates for the tsunami of goals that have flowed since then - check out the YouTube video here.
El Clasico hat-trick (2007)
Club games don’t come bigger than El Clasico – and Messi has been as big a tormenter of Real Madrid as anyone else, netting a record 26 goals in the fixture.
Messi’s first ever hat-trick for Barca came in a thrilling 3-3 encounter with Real in March 2007, when the prodigious Argentine was still just 19 years old.
All three came via Messi’s magic left foot, with the last perhaps being the pick of the lot as he danced around the Real defense before firing home. Mesmerizing.
Solo stunner vs Getafe (2007)
Comparisons between Messi and Maradona are inescapable given the many similarities in style, stature and sublime skill between the two compatriots.
Messi’s solo stunner against Getafe in the Copa del Rey semi-final in 2007 showed all the hallmarks of Maradona’s own ‘Goal of the Century’ at the World Cup against England in 1986.
Head and shoulders above the rest (2009)
Standing at 5ft 7in, Messi has understandably scored the majority of his goals with the ball on the deck.
That makes his header against Manchester United in the Champions League final in 2009 something of a rarity, but a brilliantly executed one all the same.
The header put Barca 2-0 up and effectively sealed Europe’s biggest prize - which was the second of Messi's four titles in the competition so far.
Check out every angle of the goal in a UEFA video here.
Bagging 5 goals against Bayer Leverkusen (2012)
The Barca number 10 produced one of the finest individual displays ever seen in the Champions League when he incredibly found the net five times against Germans Bayer Leverkusen in the teams’ last 16 encounter in 2012.
It’s a record Champions League single-game haul that has lasted to this day, and the goals showcased the full range of talents at the diminutive forward’s disposal.
Putting Boateng on his backside (2015)
Many have been humbled by the brilliance of Messi down the years, but perhaps few have been quite so blatantly and blissfully undone as Bayern Munich defender Jerome Boateng.
In the first leg of the teams' Champions League semi-final in 2015, Messi sold the defender a dummy so outrageous it left Boateng bamboozled and on his backside – and it was all topped off with a delightful chip into the net. Barca went on to win the game 3-0 and the tie 5-3 on aggregate, on their way to winning the title outright against Juventus in the final.
More solo magic (2015)
Messi’s solo strikes are legion, and among the pantheon is his incredible effort against Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey final in 2015.
Collecting the ball near the half-way line, he sprinted and jinked his way past a mob of opposition players before slotting coolly with his left foot past the ‘keeper’s near post.
Another Classic in El Clasico (2017)
What better way to score your 500th Barca goal than to clinch a 3-2 Clasico win at the Bernabeu.
That’s how the five-time Ballon d'Or winner racked up his quintuple century for the Catalan club in April 2017, curling home a delightful finish to seal victory for his team.
It led to the iconic image of Messi whipping off his shirt and holding it up the Real faithful as Barca climbed to the top of the table. However, Real would go on to claw themselves back above their rivals to win the title.
Check the iconic goal out here.
Virtuoso display against Tottenham (2018)
Messi offered a very recent reminder – as if one was needed – of his continuing brilliance with a virtuoso display that saw off Tottenham in this season’s Champions League group stage game at Wembley.
The little magician pulled all the strings, scoring twice in a display so mesmeric it was widely hailed as one of the greatest ever to grace the competition.
Yes, it was only the group stage, but it was typically brilliant.
So here's to you, Lionel Messi, we salute you and the 15 years of magic you've brought us.
Here's hoping for a little more yet to come.