Lionel Messi: Barcelona legend's debut highlights vs Espanyol in 2004 | OneFootball

Lionel Messi: Barcelona legend's debut highlights vs Espanyol in 2004

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For Barcelona fans, a victory over rivals Espanyol is cause for great celebration regardless of the circumstances. However, the Blaugrana's 1-0 win at the RCDE Stadium on October 16 2004 has a special significance - as it marked the professional debut of a certain Lionel Messi.

The Argentine would go on to score 672 goals in 778 games for Barca, cementing himself as the greatest player in the history of the club.

However, when then-manager Frank Rijkaard plucked Messi from the Barcelona B team and placed him on the bench against Espanyol at the age of just 17 years and three months, nobody could have predicted the impact that the youngster would end up having on modern football.

Messi came on to replace Portuguese international Deco with barely seven minutes of the contest remaining. Although physically outmatched by everyone else on the pitch, Messi's ability with the ball at feet was clear during his brief cameo.

He didn't get on the scoresheet, but Messi still gave the Espanyol defenders plenty to think about - all while exclusively using his left foot - as he showed glimpses of the incredible talent that would see him lift a record-setting six Ballon d'Or awards at Barcelona. You can check out highlights from his debut performance below.

Lionel Messi highlights from his Barcelona debut vs Espanyol - October 16 2004

The following year Messi would sign his first professional contract at the Camp Nou. As a token of just how highly thought of he was at the club, a release clause of €150 million was included in the deal - a considerable sum for a young player in 2005.

Lionel Messi: Can you get 20/20 on this quiz about his Barcelona career?

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At what age did Messi join Barcelona?

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Messi, though, never had any desire to leave Barcelona - and would still be plying his trade in Catalonia if it were not for the financial mess that the club has got themselves into in recent times.

Barca simply couldn't re-sign Messi after his contract expired at the end of last season due to Financial Fair Play restrictions. Ultimately, this left the player with no option but to depart the club in August, signing with Paris Saint-Germain a few days later. The emotional scenes that unfolded at his farewell press conference served to underline the affection he holds for Barcelona and their supporters.

The diminutive superstar won a club-record 35 trophies at the Camp Nou, including 10 La Liga titles and four Champions League triumphs. Barcelona will likely never see another like Lionel Messi.

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