Celebrating 14 years of Lionel Messi
When a long-haired, 17-year-old boy trotted into the pitch in the Catalan Derby, little did the world know that he will soon be the king of football? The name on the back of the shirt read clear as day, Lionel Messi. This was the kid who impressed Fabio Capello mid-game in the Joan Gamper Trophy against Juventus.
Capello even asked Frank Rijkaard, the then Barcelona manager, to sign him on a loan deal. Success soon followed the little magician, who scored his first league goal with an audacious chip. The ruckus that he created at Stamford Bridge in 2005, against great defenders like Terry, Makelele, and Del Horno, is still the best teenage performance till day.
Years have gone by. 14 years ago, Novak Djokovic was World No. 340, Barcelona only had one Champions League title, LeBron James was a rookie and Lionel Messi was just another teenager making a hopeful debut. From his little shivers when he replaced Deco in the Catalan Derby to deciding El Clasicos on his own, Lionel has grown in his coveted career.
Over 500 goals, five Ballon d'Or awards, 33 trophies speak volumes of Lionel Messi’s talent. Messi has seen all that one can in his footballing career. A World Cup Final, A Copa America Final, a Champions League final and many a crucial league matches. He has beaten terrific goalkeepers, scored some wonder goals.
In 14 long years, Lionel has earned praises from team-mates, opponents, coaches and has forced some musical commentaries from those in the box. So many great moments, we visit our nostalgic past of Lionel Messi. The best moments of Lionel Messi’s mesmerizing career.
The first goal:
Barcelona vs Albacete, Camp Nou, 1st May 2005
Frank Rijkaard knew in his mind that he has the match sealed. Albacete was never going to make it back into the match. Keeping the situation in consideration, Rijkaard thought it as a perfect moment to let the young kid breathe the Camp Nou atmosphere. Little did Rijkaard know, that his substitution will be top scorer in the history of Barcelona and La Liga.
Chipping is an art that not many can master. Let alone master, it cannot even be executed without sheer talent. Within three minutes off coming on, the young man with number 30 on his back, chipped the ball over the Albacete keeper, but it was mistakenly ruled offside. Destiny had already decided that it would be the day when Lionel Messi’s left foot will strike first.
Messi got his chance again after a minute or two. Ronaldinho chipped over the defence to Messi and Messi chipped the ball even better, straight over the keeper to the far post. Lionel Messi rode on Ronaldinho’s back while celebrating his goal and sure enough, today Barcelona rides on his back.
The First Hattrick:
Real Madrid vs Barcelona, Camp Nou, 10th March 2007
The first is always forgotten but it has the utmost importance. The first goal from Messi’s sublime left foot came off an assist from Ronaldinho. It was a stepping stone to the hundreds that he has now. Lionel Messi’s first hat-trick was nothing short of a miracle. Facing Real Madrid in the biggest league match, going down thrice, a man down for a full half, Barcelona had to toil hard on the pitch. Lionel Messi was Barcelona’s saviour that day and from that day forth he became the ‘Messiah’.
Ruud Van Nistelrooy opened the scoring within 5 minutes and struck again from the spot in the 13th minute. Lionel Messi, still only 19, cancelled out the goals on two different occasions. In the 11th minute, off the assist from Eto’o past Casillas and also the 28th minute off a rebound. Messi pummeled the ball with intent into the net for the second goal. Things became bad for Barcelona at the stroke of half-time when Oleguer was sent off. Conditions became worse when Sergio Ramos scored one among his many important headers in the 73rd minute.
90 minutes down, Real Madrid sensed a victory inside the Camp Nou. It was not to be. In the 91st minute, Ronaldinho picked Messi out unconvincingly outside the box. Messi made a convincing flooring Gago on his way inside the box and catapulted the ball past the stretch of Ramos and Casillas.
The 97000 inside the Camp Nou rejoiced, they found a new hero. The way the kid celebrated, with repeated kisses to the crest in front of his home crowd, falling into the arms of Ronaldinho, everyone knew this is Barcelona’s trump card for the next decade.
The commentary from the match sounds in the ears as if I heard yesterday. It was Rob Palmer and Jerry Armstrong in the commentary box and this came from the heart of Rob Palmer.
“That wonderful left foot of Messi has struck again. 19 years of age, he scores a hattrick. Not only does he score, but he has also scored for 10-man Barca, in extra time. You can’t write a script like this”
The goal of the century at just 19 years of age
Messi vs Getafe, Camp Nou, La Liga, 2006-07
Messi was just a 19-year-old with the number 19 on his back. He was expected to play well but certainly not to score an outrageous goal, much similar to Diego Maradona’s epic world cup goal. When people saw Maradona’s goal of the century, people doubted they would ever see a miracle like that. Lionel Messi had already shown potential to become the greatest Argentine in history and the goal just strengthened the argument.
A simple pass from Xavi found Leo Messi behind the halfway line. He was surrounded by two Getafe defenders, still, he kept the ball stuck with his left foot and whizzed past those two. He accelerated at tremendous speed and left defenders in his trail.
He controlled the ball with astute clarity among the defensive crowd near the box, rounded the keeper and finished the move. Lionel Messi beat a total of 6 players on his way to goal, the other 5 could only watch from distance.
Messi’s goal of the century is one of his best goals. Since then he has scored a number of solo goals and he is the still the master of solo goals.
The 6-2 win against Madrid
Real Madrid vs Barcelona, Santiago Bernabeu, 2nd May 2009
In one of the most one-sided El Clasicos, Barcelona bulldozed Real Madrid by a four-goal margin and put six past Iker Casillas. When Gonzalo Higuain pushed his header past Victor Valdes, it seemed like Barcelona will in for a long night against the Galacticos. The complexion of the game changed very quickly with Messi and Xavi dictating terms in the midfield.
Lionel Messi unleashed his stalwart chip with Canavarro staring dead straight at him. The ball looped over the helpless acrobatic kick of Sergio Ramos and fell right into Thierry Henry.
Real Madrid’s defence tried to play through Barcelona’s press and it was a grave mistake. Xavi pinched the ball from under the nose of Lass Diarra and Lionel Messi went off in a moronic run to finish the ball past Iker Casillas. To top off the classic route, Messi and Xavi combined in a brilliant passage of play.
Messi passed to Xavi who came under immediate press from Cannavaro and Van Der Vaart. Messi slid past the defence like a shadow and Xavi found him with immediate accuracy. Messi was way ahead for Heinze or Cannavaro to track back and he zipped the ball past Iker Casillas with authority.
A satisfying demolition of the Real Madrid team at their very home all but closed the doors for title competition for Madrid. Lionel Messi at the focal point of the demolition.