Messi's greatest moments in football according to the man himself
The winner of eight league titles, four Champions League trophies, five Ballons d'Or and an Olympic gold medal among a host of other accolades, records and trophies – and there’s plenty more to come, too. Lionel Messi's career has not so much been sprinkled with magic as completely drenched in the stuff. In fact it’s been so littered with brilliance that it would be a futile task to even try to work out his greatest moments, let alone try to rank them in order of importance.
Unless, of course, you're Lionel Messi - so we asked him, and he told us his 14 greatest moments for club and country.
Espanyol 0-1 Barcelona
La Liga, October 16, 2004
Messi made his debut in the Catalan derby against Espanyol in the 2004/05 season at just 17 years of age, replacing Deco with 8 minutes remaining. Barcelona won 1-0.
LM: "I was definitely a little nervous as I was about to come onto the field for my debut. It was a very important moment for me, something I’d desperately wanted for a long time, and I was maybe a bit impatient!
"I already had the confidence from working with the coach, Frank Rijkaard, and all of the players. I’d been training with the staff and the team. That helped me to settle into the first team a little easier.
"It was a very special day for me – it was the dream I had always been hoping would eventually come true, although it feels like such a long time ago now."
Barcelona 2-0 Albacete
La Liga, May 1, 2005
Messi had been promoted from Barcelona B at the beginning of the 2004/05 season and had been eased into the team slowly by boss Frank Rijkaard, making just seven league appearances all season – all from the bench. In the final one of those, he scored his first Barcelona goal against Albacete – two minutes after coming on as a substitute for Samuel Eto’o. Barça won their first league title in six years. Then 17, Messi would go on to help them win a whole host more.
"LM: "My first Barça goal! I was still at the stage where I was just enjoying playing at the Camp Nou and being able to play in the first team with fantastic players.
"I wasn’t really thinking about scoring goals, but I knew if there was a chance for me to score, I wouldn’t be nervous.
"Everything happened so fast. Ronaldinho flicked the ball over the defence and I chipped it over the keeper. It was a really nice moment, especially as the players – my new team-mates – came to celebrate it with me."
Argentina 6-0 Serbia & Montenegro
World Cup, group stage, June 16, 2006
Messi had made his World Cup debut as an 18-year-old at the 2006 tournament in Germany. He became the youngest player ever to represent Argentina at a World Cup. Within three minutes he’d assisted Hernan Crespo and by the end of the 90 he’d scored Argentina’s sixth.
LM: "Although this was my first appearance at a World Cup, I had played in many friendly games with the national team before – so in that sense there was no problem for me. I wasn’t nervous, I was excited to get out on the field and enjoy playing in the World Cup.
"It was a beautiful day due to the significance of the occasion – it was the World Cup and it was Argentina’s second match of the tournament. I was on the bench for the first game against Ivory Coast, but came on for the last 15 minutes against Serbia & Montenegro and scored our sixth goal of the game. Beautiful."
Real Madrid 3-3 Barcelona
La Liga, March 10, 2007
This wasn’t the typical Clasico. Both sides were struggling for form; both sides had been knocked out of the Champions League in the previous midweek with Barca losing to Liverpool and Madrid to Bayern. Sevilla were top of La Liga, Madrid hadn’t won in the league in a month and Barcelona had been beaten in their previous two away league matches. With talk of impending doom in both the capital and Catalonia, nobody expected much. What unfolded was one of the best matches in living memory. Three times Madrid took the lead, and three times Messi replied.
LM: "It’s a beautiful feeling to get three goals against Real Madrid – it’s always a fixture everybody in the world watches, and this was the first time I’d achieved it.
"To score a hat-trick was incredible and it was even more special because it came in a Clasico."
Barcelona 5-2 Getafe
Copa del Rey, semi-final, April 18, 2007
The comparisons to Maradona’s strike against England at the Azteca in 1986 were global and instant. Messi picked the ball up just inside his own half, jinked past Paredes and Nacho, between Alexis and Belenguer, dropped his shoulder to round Luis Garcia and slotted home beyond a lunging Pablo Redondo. “It was the best goal I’ve ever seen in my life,” gushed Deco. Messi was still a teenager.
LM: "When I walk out onto the pitch, I’m not really thinking about the consequences of the match or what might or might not happen – in football, everything should just happen naturally.
"For this goal against Getafe, I picked the ball up near the halfway line and found a lot of space between the defenders. When I received possession, I didn’t think of scoring. I just wanted the open spaces to continue appearing as I moved towards the penalty area. I kept finding them as I kept advancing, and I didn’t start thinking I might score until I actually took the shot."
Nigeria 0-1 Argentina
Olympics, final, August 23, 2008
Messi’s Argentina won gold at the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008, emulating their compatriots from four years earlier - with Messi's long-time team-mate Javier Mascherano playing in both tournaments.
LM: "To be truthful, the trip to Beijing is one of the most beautiful memories in my career.
"It was incredible – a complete tournament for us. Yes, we won the semi-final 3-0 against Brazil – a great team who were also playing well – but we also overcame the Netherlands and Nigeria. Both were very hard games and we had to be at our best to win.
"We were very confident that we could claim the gold medal. Look at the team we had and the unity among the players. We thought from the start that we could win in Beijing and we were able to do it."
Real Madrid 2-6 Barcelona
La Liga, May 2, 2009
Barcelona went into the Clasico four points ahead of Madrid with five matches to play. A defeat at the Bernabeu – to a home side who had won 18 of their previous 19 league games – would’ve made things incredibly tight going into the final straight, but Barça needn’t have worried.
LM: "It was a particularly special night, given the way we won in the Bernabeu. I’d played in a new position – the ‘false nine’. It was a plan that Pep Guardiola had come up with especially for this match in order for us to be our most effective.
"We’d spoken about it a lot before, so both of us were very satisfied with how it worked. Those big matches can go either way, and I’ve been in games where we’ve conceded four goals to Real and others where we have scored six.
"It was a fantastic performance from the whole team. I’m not sure whether it was the best, but it’s certainly a match that we will always remember and cherish."
Barcelona 2-0 Manchester United
Champions League, final, May 27, 2009
Barça lifted their second Champions League trophy in three years by beating holders Manchester United at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. United dominated the early stages of the game, with Cristiano Ronaldo looking particularly threatening – until Samuel Eto’o scored on 10 minutes. Barça starved United of possession and Messi put the game to bed 20 minutes from time with a rare header. It sealed an unprecedented treble for Barcelona.
LM: "In the moments that the ball was in the air from Xavi’s cross, I pictured scoring this goal and I thank God it happened. It was such an important goal in every sense: for the team, for the way the final was turning in our favour and for me, too. It’s still one of my favourite goals.
"After missing the 2006 final through injury, it was very special for me just to play in this game, let alone score in it. It completed a great season when we won everything."
Barcelona 7-1 Bayer Leverkusen
Champions League, last 16, March 7, 2012
By single-handedly destroyeing Leverkusen in 2012, Messi became only the tenth player to score five in a European Cup/Champions League match – and the first since 1979.
LM: "I was just delighted to get five and, more importantly, that the team won so convincingly.
"I didn’t realise at the time that I was the first player to score five goals in a Champions League game. I just thought we had played very well as a team and was happy about that.
"Honestly, I prefer it when the team wins – it’s a team game and without the team I couldn’t do anything."
Argentina 2-1 Bosnia & Herzegovina
World Cup Group Stage, June 14, 2014.
At Germany 2006, Messi became the youngest player to represent Argentina at a World Cup – and within 13 minutes of coming on he became the youngest to score, too. Having drawn a blank in South Africa four years later, he was forced to bide his time until Brazil 2014 for another goal at the global get-together.
LM: "I’d had to wait eight years for my second World Cup goal. We wanted to have a great tournament and started off with a win against Bosnia, and I scored our second goal.
"It all happened very quickly. I picked the ball up near the halfway line and tried to burst towards their penalty area. I played a one-two with Gonzalo Higuain and then shot from the edge of the box. Luckily it all came off.
"The World Cup is very important for all of the people in Argentina and it would be a dream to win it with the national team one day."
Barcelona 5-1 Sevilla
La Liga, November 22, 2014
Messi scored a hat-trick against Sevilla to become the all-time top scorer in La Liga, breaking Athletic Bilbao legend Telmo Zarra’s record that had stood for almost 60 years.
LM: "It’s an amazing feeling to be the highest-ever scorer in La Liga, a league with so many spectacular players in its history and players who have achieved so much. It’s a great accomplishment for me.
"I didn’t have any kind of celebration planned for it – and I never think about what will happen after I’ve scored a goal. It’s best that the celebrations all come naturally, like the play on the field."
Barcelona 3-0 Bayern Munich
Champions League, semi-final, May 6, 2015
This was a seminal performance from Barcelona, with Messi the main protagonist: two goals, a late assist and a series of mesmerising dribbles, one of which left Jerome Boateng floundering and prompted a thousand internet GIFs. Less than a year after Boateng and Germany – with six Bayern players involved – beat Argentina in the World Cup final, Messi gained supreme personal revenge by leading Barcelona into the final - where they would beat Juventus to to win their fifth Champions League title.
LM: "As I approached [Jerome] Boateng, all I was thinking about was just trying to get past him to get close to the goal.
"I was really happy to score in such an important game, one that helped to put us through to another Champions League final. We had a spectacular coach in Luis Enrique and he helped us to win a very complicated match.
"We really got in the mood for that game and played at our best level, yet we were all still tranquil and calm."
Juventus 1-3 Barcelona
Champions League, Final, June 6, 2015
Another masterclass from Messi and his team-mates. Barcelona went to the Olympiastadion in what Gerard Pique called "the pursuit of perfection" – and they came as close as any football team ever has. Messi spearheaded an onslaught and made a Juventus side that had kept 27 clean sheets that season look porous and second-rate.
LM: "Lifting up the Champions League trophy is an incredible feeling – becoming a champion is always a moment of happiness and joy. Yet in those moments, you don’t appreciate the magnitude of what you have just achieved. Even in Berlin, we didn’t realise the significance of what we’d done in winning the Treble.
"It’s particularly special because it’s such a difficult task to win against the very best teams. It’s such a tough competition – you can be playing well, but then in one game you are suddenly out of the Champions League."
Real Madrid 2-3 Barcelona
La Liga, April 23, 2017
Although Barcelona ended up coming second in the league to arch-rivals Real Madrid, the final Clasico of the season was a special one for Messi as he passed 500 goals for the club.
LM: "It was a perfect night, one where everything went right, where I got everything that I wanted. I scored two great goals against Real Madrid inside the Bernabeu, with the second coming in the last minute to win us the game. And then you have the fact it was my 500th goal for Barcelona, too!
"I couldn’t have asked for anything more. If I had not scored in that moment, we would have said goodbye to the league title there and then. It was a goal that gave us the drive to carry on fighting to try to win the league. We deserved to win this match and it was an emotional moment for all Barcelonistas.
"Luis Enrique was really complimentary after the game, saying that I was ‘the best player in history’, but I should say it was his arrival that motivated us all to compete again."
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