Video: When 17-year-old Lionel Messi toyed with Espanyol during his Barcelona B days
By now everyone is familiar with how Lionel Messi rose through the ranks at Barcelona’s La Masia and went on to make his debut for the senior team at the age of 17. After signing his first professional contract in February 2004, he would make his Barcelona B debut in March that year – which ensured his buyout clause would be an astronomic €80 million.
Before weaving his magic on the Camp Nou pitch, Messi was already winning over the fans with his displays for the youth side. One match in particular stands out – the derby game against Espanyol. And FC Barcelona recently uploaded the highlights of that match on YouTube.
The Argentine forward, wearing the #11 jersey, is seen scurrying around the pitch with the ball at his feet, escaping one challenge after another as the Espanyol players had no answer to his phenomenal dribbling skills. The trademark shimmies and quick acceleration with feet like ball magnets almost makes it look like a footballer playing a match with cheat codes.
Messi provides the assist for the team’s first goal. Picking the ball in midfield, he first makes his way past two players before a beautiful dribble draws out a third defender. Messi then feeds his teammate Francisco Javier making a run into the box with a through ball and he makes no mistake in finding the back of the net.
At one point, frustrated Espanyol players even tried to foul him, much like the derby earlier this month, but Messi was not to be denied. In the end, only a crunching tackle brings him down outside the box and the goalkeeper just about managed to parry away his free-kick.
Eventually, Messi would get his goal. In the same manner as the first, he would receive the ball, run straight down the middle of the field, leave his defenders for dead and take a shot from outside the box to beat the goalkeeper.
One month later, at the insistence of the senior players, Frank Rijkaard would hand Messi his senior debut against the Espanyol senior team. The rest is history.