Throwback: Leo Messi shows unreal skills on Barcelona B debut aged 16

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Barcelona's Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring against Albacete

Eighteen years have passed since a shaggy-haired, 16-year-old Argentine prospect by the name of Lionel Messi made his Barcelona B debut against Mataro – but video footage of his performance in the Segunda Division B game in March 2004 remains as mesmerising as ever.

Lionel Messi was born and raised in Rosario, Argentina, but was picked up by Barcelona aged just 13 and immediately relocated to Catalonia.

From there, the club helped him develop in their famed La Masia youth academy. Barcelona also provided treatment for a growth hormone deficiency that the Messi family could not afford.

Messi was still relatively small, but he flourished in the Barca youth teams, displaying his supernatural talent and dribbling skills.

He moved up quickly through the ranks. Aged 13, he was already playing for the Under-16 B team.

And in the 2003-04 season, when Messi was still just 16, he made his debut for five different Barcelona sides – the Under-19 B team, Under-19 A team, Barcelona C, Barcelona B, and the Barcelona first team.

Interestingly, Messi’s senior introduction came five months before his first game for Barcelona B, when he played a part in a friendly game against Porto in November 2003.

The Barcelona B debut – in a competitive game against Mataro in the Segunda B – came on March 6 2004.

Barcelona won the match at the Miniestadi 1-0 and though Messi did not get on the scoresheet on that occasion, he demonstrated flashes of the world-class player he would become in the following years.

Some of that brilliance can be seen in the video below. One passage in particular catches the eye (starting at 00:31), with Messi evading five defenders and managing to get a cross in. It comes to nothing, but the signs of the skill he possessed were all there.

Messi would go on to score six goals in 22 Barcelona B appearances, most of which came the following season, 2004-05.

The manager who gave Messi that Barca B debut, Pere Gratacos, later said: “[Messi] was very fast physically, but also mentally. When he made a decision, the opponent hadn’t even thought about it.

“There are two games in which Messi left the Mini[estadi] fans speechless.

“In the derby against Espanyol we won 2-0, Leo gave an exhibition and scored a goal, and on the last day of 2004-05, when we beat Osasuna 4-0, Messi was unplayable.

“He was subbed in the 87th minute so that the Mini could applaud him and give him a standing ovation. He deserved to say goodbye to the Mini like that.”

Messi’s competitive senior debut also arrived in 2004-05, with the Argentine, by then aged 17, coming off the bench in the derby away to city rivals Espanyol on October 16.

Messi would go on to make nine appearances for Frank Rijkaard’s Barcelona that season, scoring once, an effort famously set up by Brazilian legend Ronaldinho.

From there, Messi would eventually hit stratospheric heights, winning everything there is to win with Barcelona and confirming himself as one of the greatest footballers of all time.


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