It’s been ten years since a long-haired precocious teenage product of La Masia made an inauspicious debut for Barcelona. While his talent was evident in his brief cameo little would anyone have guessed that the diminutive Argentine would go on to dominate world football shattering records and terrorising defences.
Diagnosed with a condition that curtailed his growth as a youngster, Messi’s career could have ended before it began but for Barcelona. The Catalan club decided to pay for the treatment and bring the gifted lad to Spain and it’s an investment that has
paid off handsomely.
Introduced into the side by then manager Frank Rijkaard that boasted of attacking talents such as Ronaldinho and Samuel Eto’o, Messi quickly showed his skills to the world with his searing pace, close control and quick feet coupled with an uncanny ability to change direction sharply.
While his debut failed to catch the imagination of the world, a plethora of winning performances saw Argentine legend Diego Maradona anoint the youngster his heir. While this was not the first time the former captain has referred to a youngster in that manner, Pablo Aimar being one of them, this was the first that Maradona would have been proud of.
The fact that Messi scored a goal with his hand and mimicked Maradona’s goal against England, where he dribbled past half the English team before scoring the winner, almost frame by frame only added to the fire.
While Messi’s performance in the national colours have not been his best moments on the field, there is no doubt that in his individual and club achievements he has surpassed his predecessor.
Despite embracing success at an early age, Messi only hit his frightening level as a consistent scorer after the appointment of Pep Guardiola. The Barca manager, seeing the sublime talent of the Argentine, packed off Ronaldinho and late Eto’o to make Messi the main man. He changed tactics to extract the best out of the striker and was gifted with returns that dwarf even the most prolific forwards in the world. A 50 goal season average is unusual to say the least. What followed has been four Ballon d’Ors.
While there are persistent whispers of his ability to play at a team other than Barcelona where he is not the focus of the side and doesn’t have the talents of Xavi or Iniesta to feed the balls to him, there is no doubt that Messi is the mercurial talent of this generation. Couch pundits would argue that he should move and replicate his form at another club to prove his true legendary status. But when a club has done so much to help you, not just in your career but also in life, why would anyone want to leave the mother ship?