BARCELONA (REUTERS, AFP) – Football has been turned on its head in recent days with Barcelona’s bombshell announcement that their superstar forward Lionel Messi is set to leave the Nou Camp.
The Argentinian, who joined Barca’s youth set-up aged 13, spent his entire professional career at the club and is their all-time top scorer and appearance maker with 672 goals in 778 games in all competitions. His contract expired at the end of June.
Born: June 24, 1987 in Rosario, Argentina
Career to date
• Joined Barcelona as a 13-year-old in 2000 and shone in the youth ranks before coach Frank Rijkaard gave him a senior debut at the age of 16 in a friendly against Porto in 2003.
• Made his La Liga debut in October 2004 and scored his first league goal the following May in a match against Albacete at the Nou Camp.
• Scored six goals in 17 appearances in 2005-06 as Barca won La Liga for the second year in a row but did not feature in their 2-1 victory over Arsenal in the Champions League final.
• Played a key role as Barca claimed six trophies in the calendar year of 2009 including the Champions League, La Liga, Copa del Rey and Club World Cup.
• Won the first of four consecutive Ballon d’Or awards.
• Won La Liga again in 2010 and retained the Ballon d’Or award, beating Spanish World Cup winners and Barca team-mates Andres Iniesta and Xavi.
• Inspired Barcelona to a 3-1 win against Manchester United in the 2011 Champions League final, scoring one goal and creating another.
• Helped Barca to a third consecutive La Liga title in 2010-11 and was on the scoresheet as they beat Santos 4-0 to win the Club World Cup.
• While Barca failed to retain La Liga or the Champions League, Messi overtook Cesar Rodriguez as Barcelona’s all-time leading goalscorer and finished 2012 with an extraordinary total of 91 goals in all competitions – a record for a calendar year.
• Smashed La Liga’s scoring record for one season in 2011-12 with 50 goals.
• Equalled the Champions League scoring record of 71 goals set by former Real Madrid and Schalke 04 forward Raul when he struck twice against Ajax Amsterdam at the end of 2014. Has since been overtaken by Juventus forward Cristiano Ronaldo.
• Turned in a series of scintillating performances in 2014-15 as Barca won a historic second treble, with Messi winning his fifth Ballon d’Or award after becoming the all-time top scorer in La Liga.
• Won the domestic double in 2015-16 and 2017-18.
• Following the departure of Andres Iniesta in May 2018, Messi was named Barcelona’s captain for the following season and led them to the league title, but the club were eliminated at the Champions League semi-final stage by Liverpool.
• Won a record sixth Ballon d’Or in September 2019.
• Attempted to leave Barcelona in August 2020, making a formal request for an exit after a breakdown in his relationship with then president Josep Maria Bartomeu but successor Joan Laporta, who presided over the Argentinian’s rise to greatness, convinced him to stay.
• Surpassed Pele’s record at Santos with his 644th goal for Barcelona against Real Valladolid in La Liga in December 2020.
• In his final season at the club, Barcelona won the Copa del Rey but finished third in the league and were knocked out by Paris St Germain in the Champions League last 16 stage.
• Scored a club record 672 goals in 778 games and won 35 trophies at the club, including 10 La Liga titles and four Champions League trophies.
Finest moments with Barcelona
• First hat-trick against Real Madrid (2007): March 10, 2007, a 3-3 draw in La Liga at home to Real Madrid.
Two left-footed strikes from the mesmerising Argentinian starlet brought Barcelona back into a game where Ruud van Nistelrooy had plundered a 2-0 lead at the Nou Camp for arch-rivals Real Madrid. But Messi’s cheeky 90th-minute equaliser after stealing the ball form Sergio Ramos made the-then 19-year-old and his deadly finishing the talk of the town.
• Seismic 6-2 win at Real Madrid (2009): May 2, 2009, a 6-2 Liga win at Real Madrid.
Messi was at the heart of three of the goals that saw Madrid slip to their most bitter home defeat ever by Barcelona in a painful 6-2 lesson.
• Four-goal haul against Arsenal (2010): April 6, 2010, a 4-1 Champions League quarter-final win over Arsenal at the Camp Nou.
Barcelona were in trouble against Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal after a 2-2 draw in London when they fell 1-0 behind at home as the Londoners dared an attacking strategy that fell short as Messi ran rampant. Starting with a long-range shot before conjuring two more from nothing and ending with a lethal low shot, Messi again stole the plaudits and the show. He would score five against Leverkusen in a 7-1 win in 2012, a year in which he racked up 91 goals. But the Arsenal mauling stands above that as his most dazzling display.
• Beating Real in Europe (2011): April 27, 2011, a 2-0 Champions League semi-final away win at Real Madrid
In his first meeting with Real Madid in Europe, Messi scored a stunning late double in the opening away leg as Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona killed the contest in a game that attracted massive worldwide audiences.
• Champions League win at Wembley (2011): May 28, 2011, Champions League final, a 3-1 victory over Manchester United in London.
In a rematch of the 2009 final also won by Barca, Messi propels his team to victory with a fine strike, his 53rd goal in 55 matches at that time in the season. He also won the title of top scorer in the competition that year, with 12 goals.
• Double against Guardiola (2015): May 6, 2015, Champions League semi-final, first leg – a 3-0 win over Bayern Munich at Camp Nou.
Facing his former coach Guardiola, Messi scores twice in three minutes at the end of the game.
The highlight then was a dribble which left opposing defender Jerome Boateng on his backside, before setting up Neymar.
• Mythical celebration (2017): April 23, 2017, in La Liga, a 3-2 victory at the Bernabeu against Real Madrid.
Messi was left bleeding from the nose after a nudge from Real’s Marcelo.
Madrid went in front before Messi levelled. At the end of the game, with the score at 2-2, Messi scores past Keylor Navas with the clock showing the second minute of injury time.
He celebrates by removing his shirt, holding it at arms’ length in front of stunned Madrid supporters, his chin raised in a sign of defiance.
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