Leo Messi, with Four Ballon d'Or awards to his name (2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012) can be officially considered the best player in the world. But despite so many individual virtues, he is also a remarkable team player.
This Argentinian striker's footballing career started in 1995 at Newell's Old Boys, where he played until the year 2000. At the age of 13, Lionel Messi crossed the Atlantic to try his luck in Barcelona, and joined the Under 14s.
Messi made spectacular progress at each of the different age levels, climbing through the ranks to Barça C, followed by Barça B and the first team in record time.
In the 2003-2004 season, when he was still only 16, Messi made his first team debut in a friendly with Porto that marked the opening of the new Dragao stadium.
The following championship-winning season, Messi made his first appearance in an official match on October 16, 2004, in Barcelona's derby win against Espanyol at the Olympic Stadium (0-1). With several first team players seriously injured, the services of several reserve team players were called upon, and Messi became a regular feature of Barça squads.
On May 1, 2005, he became the youngest player ever to score a league goal for FC Barcelona - against Albacete when Messi was only 17 years, 10 months and 7 days old. That record would eventually be beaten by Bojan.
At the Under 20 World Cup in Holland, Messi not only won the title with Argentina, but was also the leading goalscorer and was voted best player in the tournament. Aged 18 years, he had become one of the hottest properties in the world game. Shortly after, he made his first full international appearance in a friendly against Hungary.
His breakthrough came in the 2005-06 season, starting with an amazing performance in the Joan Gamper Trophy match against Juventus. He was also outstanding at the Santiago Bernabéu, in Barcelona's unforgettable 3-0 win, and also at Stamford Bridge, in the Champions League match against Chelsea. Injury kept him sidelined for much of the latter stage of the season, but Messi still played a total of 17 league games, 6 in the Champions League and 2 in the Copa del Rey, and scored eight goals
The following season Messi moved up a gear and astounded the world with goals such as the one he scored against Getafe in the Copa del Rey. In the 2006/07 season, and even though the team didn't win any titles, the Argentine was second in the FIFA World Player awards and third in the Ballon d’Or. He continued to develop in the 2007/08 campaign, when he scored 16 goals and gave 10 assists in the 40 games he played in. In 2008, Leo Messi was runner up in the FIFA World Player awards for the second season in a row.
In the 2008/09 season, and now without Ronaldinho alongside him, Messi became the main star of the Barça show. He managed to stay injury free all season, and played 51 games, scoring 38 goals. The Argentinian was also fundamental in the Copa del Rey and Champions League finals, scoring Barça's second goals in both. In 2009, he finally won both the FIFA World Player and Ballon d’Or.
How far can Leo Messi go? He was the league's top scorer in the 2009-10 season and equalled Ronaldo's historic total of 34 goals (96-97). He scored the goal against Estudiantes that won Barça the Club's first World Club Cup.
But without settling for that, the Argentinian went even further in the 2010/11 season, scoring no fewer than 53 official goals, a Spanish record only matched by Cristiano Ronaldo (that very same season). Messi, like in Rome, played a vital role in the Champions League final at Wembley were scored a scorcher from outside the area to put his team ahead. In 2011, he also won the Ballon d’Or for the third time, a feat only previously achieved by Cruyff, Platini and Van Basten.
The season 2011/12 is when Messi moves past César Rodríguez's record of 232 goals to become the Club's all time top goalscorer. He achieves this on the 20th of March 2012 in a 5-3 victory over Granada in which he scores a brilliant hat-trick.
Two days earlier, on March 7, 2012, the football world watched in awe as he scored five goals in a single game against Bayer 04 Leverkusen.
On May 5, 2012, the Leo Messi legend was extended in the derby against Espanyol, when he made it to an unprecedented 50 goals in a league season, having scored four goals in three different matches. A remarkable season ended with one of the finest goals of his career in the Copa del Rey final against Bilbao. In the 2011/12 season he has scored in every competition he played in, totally an astonishing 73 as Barça conquered the Spanish Supercup, European Supercup, Clubs World Cup and the Copa del Rey. He ended 2012 with the record number of goals in a calendar year (91), thus beating the historic tally established by Gerd Müller (85 for Bayern Munich and Germany in 1972).
Messi is also captain of the Argentina national and has played in two World Cups (2006 and 2010) and two Copa Americas (2007 and 2011). In the summer of 2008 he also played at the Beijing Olympics, and came home with a gold medal.
2012/13 FC Barcelona 2011/12 FC Barcelona 2010/11 FC Barcelona 2009/10 FC Barcelona 2008/09 FC Barcelona 2007/08 FC Barcelona 2006/07 FC Barcelona 2005/06 FC Barcelona 2004/05 FC Barcelona
Debut: RCD Espanyol-FC Barcelona (0-1, League), 16/10/2004