La Liga

First glimpses of a GOAT: Messi 2003

Rewind 21 years. Porto have opened their new 50,000 capacity Estadio Do Dragao and while the regulars and Catalonians stream in, it won’t just be the celebration of a great new venue. It’ll also be the dawn of a new footballing era.

There’s not much I need to tell you about Lionel Messi. Even when he was included in this friendly’s squad, many at Barcelona knew what magic they had on their hands. The La Masia reports and clips told them all they needed to know, yet a ridiculous 474 La Liga goals in 510 games was still obviously quite the revelation.

There’s the mazy dribbles. The small stature, yet the gravity and ferocity to drive from A to deadly B. Messi’s motivation was always to score and entertain, regardless of the often-overpowering hitmen and goalkeepers standing before him. Innate brilliance.

Typical of this image above – early 2000s iconography was rife in the Rosario boy’s hair and Fevernova ball as much as it was in the collared, dark khaki Nike effort Barcalona rolled out. It’s sublime, almost military-like. No sponsor, the way it should be. Messi’s arrival was more than enough to make up for Porto’s 2-0 win.

With 15 minutes of the game to go, the visiting coach Frank Rijkaard told a promising teenager that he’d included in his squad to start warming up. His name was Leo Messi, and the Dutchman had decided he’d like to see what he could do. “I was very nervous” said the player later that day. “But I really fancied going out to play for a bit.”

Winning eight Ballon D’Ors, a World Cup, 10 La Ligas, 7 Copas del Rey, 8 Spanish Super Cups, 4 Champions Leagues, 3 European Super Cups, and 3 World Club Championships – Lionel Messi is tied as the most decorated player with Dani Alves.

It turns out Lionel fancied a whole lot more than playing a bit of football. 


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