Lionel Messi has already cemented his status as one of the greats of the game and is Argentina's talisman and record goalscorer. However, the little magician's international debut was one to forget.
Having already made a name for himself at Barcelona as one of the most exciting players in world football at the time, Messi was part of the Argentina squad to face Hungary in 2005. Jose Peckerman, who was the national team manager at the time, wanted to see if the 18-year-old had it in him to represent the country at the world and decided to hand him his debut.
While Messi did not start the game, he was thrown on as a half-time substitute as he replaced former Lyon striker Lisandro Lopez. Upon receiving the ball, he set off on one of his trademark runs to make it a debut to remember.
However, that wasn't to be the case as he was shown a straight red card 43 seconds into his debut for allegedly elbowing defender Vilmos Vanczak. While the decision stood and Messi was back in the changing room in tears, the referee's decision was a significant talking point.
The youngster's flailing arm did make contact with Vanczak, but the decision was a soft one as the diminutive Argentine was just attempting to shrug off a challenge and move forward with the ball.
Speaking after the game, a crestfallen Messi claimed that it wasn't a dream debut, adding that he meant no malice.
“It wasn’t the way I dreamed it would be. I passed him (Vanczak) and he just grabbed me and I wanted to free myself so I could carry on and the referee judged that I had elbowed him."
Argentina striker Hernan Crespo also leapt to defend the youngster. The former AC Milan striker criticised the referee's decision, adding that Messi had done nothing wrong.
“Imagine that happening to an 18-year-old. The referee made a mistake and took a very long time before showing the red card. The sending off angered us and affected the team’s spirits and its performance.”
The setback on debut did not derail Messi's international career, as the Barcelona frontman has represented Argentina a staggering 138 times till date with 70 goals to his name. Nevertheless, Messi's international debut was a disastrous one, as he lasted barely minute on the pitch before being shown his marching orders.
Tears on debut for Lionel Messi
After the game, local outlets in Spain and Argentina reported that a dejected Messi was inconsolable in the dressing room, as he was found crying in a corner after being hard done by the referee.
Lionel Messi's Argentina career is a significant talking point, as the six-time Ballon d'Or winner continues to wait for his first international trophy. Since his debut in 2005, he's experienced several highs and lows with La Albiceleste, but his first appearance for Argentina is one he won't forget!