Since Lionel Messi’s first senior goal – 15 years ago to the day – he’s won 10 La Liga titles, six Copa del Reys, four Champions Leagues and six Ballons d’Or.
He’s played at four World Cups and scored 70 goals for his country.
He’s grown from a prospect on the fringes of the Barcelona first-team squad into one of the best players the world has ever seen.
So, how do your last 15 years stack up to that?
It’s been a whirlwind decade and a half for the man many say is the greatest ever, and here is a handful of the goals that started it all.
1st La Liga Goal (vs Albacete, 1 May 2005)
If you’re lucky enough to remember this one, you’ll probably remember where you were when it happened.
With two minutes remaining of what was seeming like a routine 1-0 win over Albacete, Samuel Eto’o – scorer of the first goal – was withdrawn to hand a teenage Messi a brief cameo. Eto’o was reportedly livid at the decision, but that can’t have lasted long.
Within seconds, Messi found himself on the end of a gorgeous dinked pass from Ronaldinho, and although he’d failed to net in his seven prior appearances, he nonchalantly lobbed the wayward Raul Valbuena with all the confidence of an ocelot chasing a seal, and set history in motion.
1st Champions League Goal (vs Panathinaikos, 2 November 2005)
Champions League? Messi’s completed it, mate.
The little magician has 114 and counting in Europe’s premier knockout competition, but the first one is always special.
In Barca’s Group C tie with Panathinaikos back in 2005, Messi took it upon himself to teach the Greek side how to play football, taking advantage of a defensive disasterclass before dinking it over Mario Galinovic and poking it in from close range.
1st Copa del Rey Goal (vs Real Zaragoza, 1 February 2006)
This one is a lot less memorable – coming in the second leg of a Copa del Rey semi-final which Barcelona would lose – but they all count.
In very non-Messi fashion, this one was a powerful header, as he rose ‘highest’ in the Zaragoza box to convert Ludovic Giuly’s cross and give ten-man Barca a glimmer of hope in a tie that ultimately got away from them.
1st Argentina Goal (vs Croatia, 1 March 2006)
ON THIS DAY: In 2006, Lionel Messi scored his first international goal for Argentina in a last-minute 3-2 defeat to Croatia.
?? 125 games
?? 65 goals
La Albicelestes’ record goalscorer. pic.twitter.com/KhERWmS7RL
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 1, 2019
By March of 2006, Messi was really beginning to make a name for himself, and was already a favourite of Argentina manager Jose Pekerman.
It took until his sixth appearance for his country for him to find the back of the net, but when it came, it had extreme ‘signature Messi’ vibes.
He took the ball through on Croatia keeper Stipe Pletikosa, dropped his shoulder, shifted it onto his left foot and calmly slotted it home. Carlos Tevez tried to claim it, but there’s no denying this was Messi’s.
1st Clasico Goal (vs Real Madrid, 10 March 2007)
Fast-forward a year, and we’ve got a floppy-haired, hairband-clad Messi who – despite a couple of serious injury set-backs – was really beginning to make a name for himself.
If he wasn’t completely on the map by this stage, however, he would be by the time 90 minutes had run their course at Camp Nou. The slightly awkward looking no.19 completely ran the show from the right wing, utterly terrorising Miguel Torres and scoring all three of Barca’s goals in a classic El Clasico draw.
The first came when Eto’o picked him out in yards of space with an incisive through ball, and…well you know the rest.
1st Direct Free-Kick (vs Atletico Madrid, 4 October 2008)
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There was a time when Lionel Messi hadn’t scored a free kick for Barcelona.
Then Atletico Madrid came along in 2008/09. pic.twitter.com/X9IcxfxiVL
— ELEVEN SPORTS UK (@ElevenSports_UK) April 3, 2019
Messi and free-kicks go together like milk and coffee, So much so it’s actually quite hard to imagine that he was three years into his senior career before he scored directly from one.
His first was more ‘opportunistic genius’ than ‘touch of magic’, as he came out of nowhere and caught Atleti keeper Gregory Coupet doing…something…at his near post on Barca’s way to a famous 6-1 victory.
Think Trent Alexander-Arnold’s ‘corner taken quickly’ except it’s a long range free-kick that crept directly in.
1st Cup Final Goal (vs Athletic Club, 13 May 2009)
He’s a big game player, is Messi. Over the years, it’s easy to lose count of the amount of cup finals and key league fixtures he has won Barcelona on his own – and we got a clear sign of what was to come in that regard in the final of the 2009 Copa del Rey.
Pep Guardiola’s side had gone 1-0 down to a Gaizka Toquero header, but after Yaya Toure had levelled things up, Messi took it upon himself to give his team the lead. After Samuel Eto’o saw his cutback repelled to the edge of the Athletic area, the little Argentine arrived and powered an effort over the line.
Barca went on to win 4-1, and win one of Messi’s *checks notes* 34 major trophies.
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