PHOTO GALLERY

Lionel Messi: In pictures

16 Photos
  • Signing of the Century

    Barcelona president Joan Laporta made sure he signed Lionel Messi up to a long contract quickly.

    A star is born

    He was the top scorer at the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championships as he led Argentina to the title.

    An early start

    Messi made his full debut in 2004 and became the youngest player ever to score a league goal for Barca at only 17 years, 10 months and 7 days old.

    The Golden Boy

    Messi won the Young Player of the Year award for three seasons in 2006, 2007 and 2008

  • The King is dead

    He picked up his first La Liga title in 2004-05 and soon became a fixture in the side.

    A face in the crowd

    Indeed the youngster soon became a vital cog for club and country, although the 2006 World Cup did not work out as planned.

    Real get a hatful

    Messi's first hat-trick for the club came in 2007 and against old enemy Real Madrid.

    Messidona

    Messi scored one of the greatest goals ever as he ran through the entire Getafe side in 2007.

  • Heads, you win

    His header helped to seal his second Champions League crown in 2009 (although the first he had played in)

    Best in the world

    Messi landed his first Ballon D'Or in 2009 as he would be the best player in the world for three years straight.

    Ron rivalry

    His rivalry with Cristiano Ronaldo saw him play a major part in beating Real to the La Liga title in 2010.

    Four of a kind

    Messi's four goals saw him knock Arsenal out of the Champions League in 2010 and he was hailed as the greatest ever.

  • In the picture

    The following season saw him lift another Champions League title in 2011.

    The sword passes

    And from one great to another: Pele hands Messi the first ever FIFA Ballon D'Or in 2011.

    Five-star performance

    He became the first player to score five goals in the Champions League in a 7-1 win over Bayer Leverkusen in 2012.

    Unequalled

    Messi equalled the all-time scoring record for Barcelona - Cesar Rodriguez's 232 - aged just 24