12 YEARS ago to the day, an unknown 17-year-old burst onto the Spanish scene.
Entering the pitch in the 88th-minute to replace Barcelona legend Samuel Eto’o against Albacete, a certain Lionel Messi kicked-off his sensational career.
With one of his first touches, Messi got on the end of a delightful, chipped pass from Ronaldinho and coolly lobbed the goalkeeper.
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Then-boss Frank Rijkaard brought on Messi with the tie going down to the wire at just 1-0 to the hosts at the Nou Camp.
The man he replaced, Eto’o, had earlier scored Barca’s only goal and it was something of a shock to see the Cameroon star hauled off for a youth player.
After the game, Dutch boss Rijkaard explained the move, calmly suggesting: “It was the right moment to bring on a young kid like Messi.”
A bold move no doubt, but a superb one… and one that introduced the world to arguably the modern era’s greatest ever footballer.
Following his stunning strike, Messi simply told reporters at the Nou Camp: “I enjoyed it a lot.”
During the 2004-05 season, Messi had been training with the first-team but had struggled to nail down a spot in the squad.
A day after the game Spanish journalist Begona Villarrubia wrote: “It is difficult to imagine a better crowning jewel for a season in which he has been always training with the first team, although he has played almost all the youth team games.
“Messi now feels that the La Liga title which with all probability Barca will win will be his own.”
Since that famous day, Messi has gone on to break record after record.
The Argentinian superstar’s 500 Barcelona goals have come from just 577 games, also scoring 58 times in 117 international games.
On top of that, Messi has won eight La Liga titles – including that 2004-05 season – and four Champions League crowns.
When he retires, he will go down as arguably the greatest player to ever grace the game… and it all started 12 years ago today.