The Great Men's Cross 7: Lionel Messi 2

Lionel Messi

Rise to the First Team: 2003 – 2005
In the 2003-04 season which was his fourth with Barcelona, Messi quickly rose through the ranks in the club. In a single campaign, Messi rose through five levels in the club, playing for them. Messi only played once for the Juveniles B before he was promoted to the Juveniles A, where he scored 18 goals in 11 games. At the international break, when the team was depleted, Messi was given an opportunity to play. 

The French player, Ludovic Giuly said about Messi after a training under Frank Rijkaard as coach, ‘He destroyed us all, like, everyone was just kicking him so as not to be ridiculed by a small boy, every time he got kicked and fell, he picks up himself and keeps playing. He would dribble four players at a time and score a goal, so much that the team’s starting centre-backs got nervous; They thought he was alien.
At 16 years of age, four month and 23 days old, Messi made his debut with the first team when he was substituted in at the 75th minute 16 November, 2003 in a friendly against Porto which was led by Jose Mourinho as coach. Impressed by the technical staff, they allowed him to train with the senior team. After a training section, Ronaldinho said, ‘I believe he would be better than me’. Ronaldinho got closer to him and they became friends (Ronaldinho calls him ‘little brother’). This made it easy for Messi to enter the senior team.

Things getting Better
Since Messi was on the team B, he hasn’t been called to the senior team and the team members pleaded with Frank Rijkaard to allow him. Ronaldinho at that time plays on the left wing and the coach moved Messi to the right wing so he can cut into the centre of the field and shoot with his comfortable left leg. 
At just 17 years, three months and 22 days old, Messi became the youngest player to represent Barcelona. Messi scored his first goal with the senior team on May 1 2005 against Real Madrid from an assist by Ronaldinho; this made him the youngest player to have ever scored for Barca. Barca also won the league in the second season under Rijkaard as coach which was the first time in six years.

The Stardom
On 24 June 2005, Messi signed a contract as a senior player with Barca; this was his first. At a pre-season performance against Juventus under Fabio Capello in 2005, Messi stunned everyone with his first performance and a standing ovation was given to him at the Nou Camp. After the match, Capello made an offer to loan Messi and Inter Milan wanted to buy him and also pay his buyout clause of $150 million. 

Joan Laporte, the then president explain that the club was very scared to lose Messi at that period and all nerves was calmed when he decided not to leave Barca; this made the club to update his contract the second time in three months.
The Setback
Messi faced a lot of injury challenges at that period but still managed to score his first hattrick in a Clasico on 10 March, 2007, which was a reply to every goal scored by Real Madrid in the match. This made him the first player to score a hattrick in 12 years. Messi at that month got a significant wage increase in a new contract.

MessiMAradona – The 2007 Replica
So much comparism has gone on between Messi and Maradona especially as regards their type of play. This received much attention when Messi replicated the 1986 Maradona miracle in 2007 at a Copa del Rey semi-final against Getafe. Maradona’s goal which was popularly called ‘Goal of the century’ was nearly repeated by Messi on 18 April; Messi received the ball on the right side close to the halfway line, made a run for 60 metres (66 yd), beat five defenders and scored with an angled finish exactly like how Maradona did it. 

Also, he repeated one of the relics of Maradona known as ‘The Hand of God’, just within three weeks of the first act. On 9 June, at a league match against Espanyol, Messi launched himself at the ball and guided it past the goalkeeper with his hand just the same as that of Maradona.
See this: How to buy Time
The Accolades
At 20 years of age, Messi became the best player in Barca when Ronaldinho lost form and was nicknamed ‘Messiah’ by the Spanish media. In 2007, he was voted as the third best player behind Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo for the 2007 Ballon d’Or and he was voted as the second by international managers and national team captains for the FIFA world player of the year again behind Kaka.

He was laced with injury for the rest of the season and was forcefully fielded at a match which made him severely injured and ruled out; this made captain Carles Puyol to criticise the media for putting a pressure on Messi to play every match.

The Breakthrough
Barca overhauled the team which saw the departure of Rijkaard and Ronaldinho; this transferred the number 10 shirt to Messi. He signed another contract with Barca in 2008; this raised his salary to €7.8 million and made him the highest-paid player in the club.
Barca’s Care
Due to Messi’s incessant injuries which made him not to feature in eight months between 2006 and 2008, the club strategized on his behalf and started a new training, lifestyle, nutrition and also gave him a personal physiotherapist who travels with him everywhere, even to Argentina for national calls. After this, he became free of injuries for four years and he fully reached his potential at the time. Despite the injuries, he was again voted in 2008 into the second position of the Ballon d’Or and FIFA World Player of the year just behind Cristiano Ronaldo.

In his first free campaign in 2008-09 season, Messi scored 38 goals in 51 games, when added to Eto’o and Thierry Henry’s own totaled 100 in all competitions; this was a new record for the club.
Under Pep Guardiola, he played on the right wing but as a false winger and had the freedom to cut into the middle and also roam there. 

On May 2009, at a match against Real Madrid (El Clasico), Messi played as a false nine, was a centre forward but always dropping deep to link with Xavi and Iniesta. He scored twice in the match and also provided an assist ending the match in 6 – 2 in favour of Barca; which was the team’s highest win against Real Madrid at Santiago be continued
Read the 10 Things you must lose to move forward

You can overcome anything only if you love something enough’ - Lionel Messi

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