"I arrived aged just 13 ... it’s time to move on," said Lionel Messi: we look back at his achievements in those 21 Barcelona years.
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Lionel Messi has left Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain, ending an unbroken relationship that goes back more than 20 years.
"The Argentina star holds all of the main records in FC Barcelona history," is how the club's own website puts it, and indeed some of his marks like his 91 goals in 2012 are world marks. But with Messi, of course, it is not just about quantity but a thrilling quality perhaps unmatched in football history. We look at the key numbers from his Barcelona spell and remember some of the magic moments.
UEFA Champions League: 4*
Copa del Rey: 7
UEFA Super Cup: 3
Spanish Super Cup: 7
FIFA Club World Cup: 3
*Messi played in the final wins of 2009, 2011 and 2015. In 2005/06 he did appear in the competition but did not take part in the final.
Total appearances: 778 (club record)
Total goals: 672 (club record)
Messi’s Barcelona story
Messi joined Barcelona in 2000 at the age of 13, famously signing his first contract on a serviette. He soon progressed through the ranks, making his first-team debut in a friendly against Porto on 16 November 2003 aged just 16 years, four months and 23 days. Little under a year later he made his official bow in the Liga, coming on for Deco in a derby against local rivals Espanyol. The rest, as they say, is history.
Messi's Champions League debut
Messi made his first Champions League appearance against Shakhtar on 7 December 2004; his first goal in the competition came against Panathinaikos on 2 November 2005.
Messi's magic moments
First goal, 1 May 2005: Messi latched onto a clipped through ball from Ronaldinho before impishly dinking the ball over the onrushing Albacete goalkeeper to secure a 2-0 win for the home side.
Clásico hat-trick, 10 March 2007: By now Messi was becoming a prominent figure for the reigning European champions, and announced himself to the world with a hat-trick, including a last-minute equaliser, in a 3-3 draw with Real Madrid.
The Treble, 2008/09: Barça swept all before them under new boss Josep Guardiola, completing a first-ever treble in Spanish football history as they lifted the Liga, Copa del Rey and Champions League trophies. Messi, as ever, was pivotal and scored a stunning header to clinch a 2-0 victory over Manchester United and seal European glory.
The year 2012: Messi netted an incredible 91 goals in just 69 games on the back of winning the 2011 Champions League. In doing so, he beat by six German great Gerd Müller’s record of goals in a calendar year (as well as surpassing César Rodríguez’s club record of 190 Liga goals for Barcelona).
The MSN treble: Messi, alongside fellow attackers Luis Suárez and Neymar, fired Barça to domestic and continental glory once more in 2015. The Argentina forward notched 58 goals and 29 assists in 57 matches in all competitions, including the goal that won the league in addition to a double in the 3-1 Copa del Rey final victory over Athletic Club.
That free-kick, 1 May 2019: Barcelona hosted Liverpool in the Champions League semi-finals and were already leading 2-0, Messi having struck his 599th goal for the club, when the maestro lined up a long-range free-kick in the 82nd minute. His perfect effort flew into the top corner and took the proverbial roof off the Camp Nou, bringing up his 600th Barça goal in some style. UEFA.com Goal of the Season, no less.
Ballon d’Or/FIFA Ballon d’Or : 6
UEFA Best Player in Europe: 2
UEFA.com fans’ Men’s Team of the Year: 12
UEFA Champions League Squad of the Season: 7
European Golden Shoe: 6
Putting his brilliance into words
“He is the best player I have ever seen. The best thing about him is not what he does but how simple he makes everything look. He is not the best player just because he can dribble past three or four players, it is because he does it better than anyone in the world.”
Josep Guardiola, Messi's long-time coach at Barcelona
“Messi is undoubtedly the best footballer in the world, capable of inspiring the team to the extent that if they aren’t having a good day, they end up having the best day."
Diego Simeone, Atlético coach
“Messi is the best player in the world, there’s nothing more to say.”
Ronaldinho, former Barcelona team-mate
“He’s the best player I’ve ever known in the history of the game. It’s very difficult to imagine we’ll see another like him. Nobody has made the difference so consistently in such different circumstances. It’s brilliant to watch him play. For me, he’s the best ever.”
Julen Lopetegui, Sevilla coach
“It doesn’t matter who you are, you just have to watch and enjoy this guy. He’s on another level. With all respect to the other greats, there’s only one No1 – it’s Leo. To play 311 games next to him, it was a dream. I enjoyed it so, so much. I just want to say this: ‘Thank you for everything, Leo, because you’ll never know how much it meant to me to play next to you.'”
Ivan Rakitić, former Barcelona team-mate
Most Liga goals: 474 (520 appearances)
Most Liga goals in single season: 50 (2011/12)
Most goals in calendar year: 79 – or 91 including goals for Argentina (2012)
Most Liga hat-tricks: 36
Most UEFA Champions League group stage goals: 71
Most Argentina caps: 151
Most Argentina goals: 76
Messi vs Ronaldo
Messi is also second behind Cristiano Ronaldo in the list of both top UEFA club competition scorers (he has 123, Ronaldo 137) and top UEFA Champions League/European Cup scorers (120 compared with Ronaldo's 134). However, Messi holds the single club record, Ronaldo's Real Madrid tally in the UEFA Champions League coming to 105.
Messi bids farewell
"It’s time to say goodbye. It’s been a long number of years. I arrived aged just 13, as a little boy. 21 years later, it’s time to move on.
"It’s been a long time. It’s tough to pick one moment, but maybe my debut. It was a the start of everything, it was my dream coming true. Everything after that was marvellous. I’d pick out my debut, when everything started.
"I’m so thankful to Barcelona and the career I’ve had here, the trophies I’ve won, the defeats also helped me learn and grow. We had far more good times than bad, with so many beautiful moments, winning trophies. I’ve got a lot of amazing memories.
"I still really want to win another Champions League. We were close against Liverpool [in 2019] to getting to another final, then there was the loss to Chelsea under Guardiola [in 2012]). We could’ve won another Champions League or two. And I really want to win another; it’s one of my objectives, to win the Champions League again. I want to try and be like Dani Alves, who wins wherever he goes. I’ll try and get close to his trophy haul."
Messi on Paris move
"The welcome I received was wonderful. I feel incredibly happy. I can't wait to get started with my team-mates ... I have the same excitement, and the same desire that I had as a child.
"The coaching staff and the squad had a lot to do with me choosing this club. I know the coach Mauricio Pochettino very well. The fact that he is Argentinian helped from the start, it was important in my decision making."