Messi in FC Barcelona

Under the watchful eyes of Barcelona's coaches, Messi rose through the youth ranks at the Catalan club. He made an unofficial debut for the Blaugrana in a friendly against Jose Mourinho's FC Porto side in November 2003.

At the age of 17 years and 114 days, Messi made his league debut for Barcelona against local rivals Espanyol as an 84th minute substitute for playmaker Deco. He scored his first league goal for the club against Albacete on May 1, 2005. He was both Barcelona's youngest player and scorer in the league till 2007, when Bojan Krkic took over both records.

He was voted Player of the Tournament at the FIFA World Youth Championship in June 2005, and Barcelona, keen to keep him at the club, gave him a new contract till 2014, and put his minimum fee release clause at a staggering €150m.

Already a rising star in Spain, Messi announced himself to the European public with a superlative performance against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in the Champions League in February 2006. The British press paid tributes to “mesmerising” Messi, and nicknamed him Lionel Messiah.

The 2006-07 season saw Messi come into his own as a striker, and he began to score goals on a more regular basis. He scored a hat trick against Barca's arch rivals Real Madrid in the El Clasico in March 2007, single handedly rescuing a point for his side. A month later, he scored a spectacular goal against Getafe in the Copa del Rey. He ran 200 feet, and beat six players to score Goal of the Century Version II, as the pundits dubbed it. He then replicated another Diego Maradona goal, scoring with his hand against Espanyol in the penultimate league game of the 2006-07 season ( See our videos section for the goal).

Messi starred in Barcelona's treble winning 2008-09 season. When Ronaldinho departed for AC Milan, Messi inherited the No.10 jersey from the Brazilian wizard ( His original jersey number was 19). He helped Andres Iniesta score the injury time equaliser that eliminated Chelsea in the semifinals of the Champions League, and also scored a header against Manchester United in the final. Messi ended up as the top scorer in the Champions League with nine goals that season. He also scored twice in Barcelona's famous 6-2 win over Real in the league.

Messi won the FIFPro Young player of the Year award three consecutive times between 2005 and 2008. He also came second in the 2007 and 2008 FIFA World Player of the Year awards.

Currently, Messi is Barcelona's highest paid player, earning a salary of  €9.5m a year. His release clause has also been reportedly doubled to  €300m.

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