By 90Min
October 16, 2018

It was 14 years ago today (October 16) that Lionel Messi made his senior debut for Barcelona and the world was introduced to the player who has since redefined the standards by which greatness is measured and can genuinely lay claim to being named the best of all time.

Messi had arrived in Spain from his native Argentina just under four years earlier, famously agreeing a contract scribbled on a napkin by Camp Nou director Carles Rexach.

Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/GettyImages

The whole Messi family had initially made the trip from South America, but eventually the young player's mother, brothers and little sister moved back home to Rosario, leaving only Lionel and his father, Jorge, in Catalunya.

It resulted in homesickness for the shy and quiet Messi, not least because his career was stalling due to a disagreement between Barcelona and former club Newell's Old Boys that initially prevented him from being involved in competitive academy games.

By 2002 that dispute was finally resolved and Messi, having completed the growth hormone treatment that had threatened to kill his career before it even began, was able to play in what became known as Barça's 'Baby Dream Team' alongside Gerard Pique and Cesc Fabregas.

Messi was training with the first team at the age of 16, impressing stars like Ronaldinho, and played for as many as five different Barça sides below senior level during the 2003/04 season alone, such was his speedy rise through the ranks.

An unofficial debut came for Messi in a friendly against a Porto team managed by Jose Mourinho in November 2003. But, in October 2004, after a handful of games with Barcelona C and Barcelona B, he was deemed ready for the big time by coach Frank Rijkaard.

That game came in none other than a Barcelona city derby against Espanyol. Messi was named on the bench alongside fellow academy graduate and existing first teamer Andres Iniesta and was given his chance with eight minutes to go when he replaced Deco as a substitute.

Barça were winning 1-0 after Deco had netted inside the early stages of the contest and Messi joined the likes of Xavi, Carles Puyol, Victor Valdes, Henrik Larsson and Ronaldinho, who was by this time referring to the 17-year-old as 'little brother', on the Olympic Stadium pitch.

The game finished 1-0, with Messi going on to make his second appearance as a substitute against Osasuna, this time for 19 minutes, just a week later. By the end of the 2004/05 season, the emerging talent had played nine times for the first time, including in the Champions League, and had been given his first start in a Copa del Rey clash against Gramenet.

Messi went on to make 25 appearances the following campaign, scoring eight goals. His season was ultimately curtailed by injury but he did still collect La Liga and Champions League medals and had established himself as a new star in a team that would soon be the best in the world.

14 years on from his Barça debut there is now little more than can be said about Messi.

In 648 appearances he has scored a club record 563 goals and counting. He has won nine La Liga titles, four Champions Leagues, six Copa del Reys, three FIFA Club World Cups, five Ballon d'Or awards, five European Golden Shoes and so many other accolades and records.

Now Barça captain following the departure of Iniesta to Japan, a 31-year-old Messi has started the 2018/19 campaign in much the same fashion. He's already scored 11 goals in 11 games in all competitions as he fight for even more silverware to his collection.

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