On this day: 16 years since Lionel Messi’s Barcelona debut

The date was October 16, 2004, the opponents were Espanyol and it was the 82nd minute.

Lionel Andres Messi was about to make history as the youngest player ever to play for Barcelona’s first-team, at 17 years, three months and 22 days old.

Little did the world know at that time what awaited them.They knew at Barcelona alright. In fact, it was members of the first-team that had ensured Frank Rijkaard would bring the diminutive Argentinian into the first-team picture after a meteoric rise through the youth ranks at the club.

It would take him a while to get going with only sporadic appearances over the next few months, but once Messi hit his stride, there was no stopping him… or Barcelona.

As we look back over his club career to date, the sheer scale of his achievements is mind-boggling.

With 34 titles won already, he is out on his own as the most decorated player in Barca’s history. No mean feat when you consider some of the greats who’ve made their name at the club.

Individually, he has no compare.

A record-breaking six Ballon d’Or’s with six Golden Shoes to match – also a record.

The top scorer and assister in El Clasico and La Liga, and, by some distance the top scorer in Barcelona’s history as well as being the top assister.

Most goals in a single La Liga season, most goals in a calendar year, and in a few weeks he’s likely to beat Pele’s record of most goals in history for one club.

Not that the individual accolades bother him at all. He’s consistently maintained that for him, the team comes first.

A team that will soon have to get used to life without him, and that’s something that may come as soon as next summer.

Although Ronaldo Koeman seems to have won the Argentinian around, there’s still every possibility that he will walk away when his contract runs out in 2021.

If Barca manage to pull off the impossible and keep him at the club for one last hurrah, the numbers he will eventually reach for goals and assists may never be beaten.

It’s just a real shame that we’ll not be able to enjoy him for very much longer regardless, but Old Father Time waits for no man.

Thanks to the digital age, however, we’ll be able to watch his exploits for decades to come, and that’s a fitting tribute to the player many think is the best ever.

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