Europe’s Golden Boy award began in 2003 and commemorates the continent’s best player under the age of 21. It’s fascinating to see the list of athletes who won this prize and to compare their careers. Some of them enjoyed brilliant success like Wayne Rooney and Sergio Aguero. But others such as Renato Sanches and Bojan didn’t reach the heights that fans expected.
Messi won the trophy in 2005 after his scintillating third season with Barcelona. This was his first year as a guaranteed starter and he never let his place slip away. Ronaldinho and Samuel Eto’o were still the main men at Camp Nou but Messi’s rise was rapid. It’s great that he added this to his overflowing awards cabinet (via The Mirror).
It still feels strange to see Messi wearing a PSG shirt after he joined the French team in 2021. This came after a massive fallout in Barcelona that saw him end his 20-year association with the team. Most people agree that the French league is inferior to Spain’s but Messi took time to settle (via Sporting News).
He scored his first goal for PSG in the Champions League in a win over Manchester City. This was an important contribution and typical of the Argentine’s big-game mentality. However, his first league goal didn’t come until late September against Nantes. Injuries and a new environment took their toll but he finally got off the mark.
Messi’s first international goal came against Croatia in 2006 on his debut. It was the beginning of a long and legendary career with his nation. It should be remembered that many Argentinians had mixed feelings about the superstar. That’s because he left the country at a young age so they didn’t relate to him as well as Maradona.
Furthermore, La Albiceleste knows all about exciting players who underachieve. They loved Juan Roman Riquelme and Pablo Aimar but they arguably didn’t reach the highest level. In recent years, Javier Pastore and Erik Lamela fell short of being truly elite. There’s no denying Messis’ excellence (Time Now News).
2022 was a remarkable year for Messi for several reasons. The greatest moment saw him win the World Cup but he achieved some other excellent landmarks. One of these saw him reach 1,000 career appearances for club and country. Most players fall far short of this amazing total (via GOAL).
Messi made his debut in 2005 and continued to shine at the highest level. He played in four World Cups and emerged as one of the two most significant players of his era. His 1,000th game came against Australia in the round of 16 in Qatar. He will eclipse that total by many games because of his burning desire to play.
The Argentinian icon is one of the richest and most dominant athletes ever. It’s safe to say that he attracts the attention of many women and could have anybody that he wanted. But he gave his heart to his childhood sweetheart, Antonela Rocuzzo. The pair were married against the odds and have three children together (via People).
They grew up together in Rosario before Messi moved to Barcelona as a teenager. However, a tragedy reconnected them and their passion grew stronger. It’s a beautiful story and a fact that behind every successful man is a powerful woman. Meanwhile, Rocuzzo works as a model and a businesswoman with 20 million Instagram followers.
Some people resent that Messi left Barcelona and joined Paris Saint-Germain. However, the reality is that Barcelona couldn’t afford to keep its icon. The oil-rich PSG swooped for Messi who endured a difficult first season in Paris. But he scored the goal that guaranteed his new team the French title (via Give Me Sport).
This meant that he won two of Europe’s major leagues and proved that he could achieve glory anywhere. Ligue 1 isn’t as strong as Spain’s La Liga, but it’s still a prestigious competition. Messi also had great moments in Europe with PSG and they hope that he will inspire them to Champions League glory.
We’ve spoken about Messi’s first international goal already. But there’s a huge difference between scoring in a friendly and a World Cup. The Argentine star traveled to Germany with his nation in 2006. He scored his first World Cup goal against Serbia & Montenegro in a stunning cameo (via The 18).
The 18-year-old only had 15 minutes to make an impact but he dazzled the fans. He got an assist as well as his goal as he showed off his bag of tricks. This short appearance received a lot of attention because he demonstrated maturity beyond his years. Meanwhile, Diego Maradona loved the moment from the crowd.
Messi played in the U-20 World Cup in 2005 and proved that he was ready for the highest level. Argentina won the Championship with a victory over Nigeria in the final. Every country loves success but this was all about Messi. He was the shining light in a tournament that only diehard fans follow.
This was before he made his full international debut. He scored six goals in the competition and won the Player of the Tournament award. Stunningly, the Argentinian coach dropped him for their first game against the USA. But then he came back and proved his value to his nation (via Outlook India).
Bilbao Legend Telmo Zarra was La Liga’s record goalscorer for decades. But then Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo came along and engaged in a furious shootout. However, the annals show that Messi left his Portuguese rival in his wake. To be fair, he had an advantage because he started his career in Spain.
Messi’s 253rd goal came against Sevilla in 2014 but he didn’t show any signs of slowing down. In the end, he departed Barcelona in 2021 with a ridiculous 474 goals. He also had records for scoring against every La Liga team that he played against. The man is one of soccer’s most lethal goal machines (via The Mirror).
The Spanish Super Copa isn’t the biggest prize that Messi won. He helped Barcelona win eight of these trophies including the club’s 10th ever in 2011. This came in style against Real Madrid as they won 5-4 on aggregate. Madrid and Barcelona are fierce rivals so this created an added intensity (via UEFA).
Messi scored the winning goal as his team claimed another cup. Madrid made them work for it because they started stronger. Also, Cristiano Ronaldo had a decent game and also chipped in with a goal. Ultimately, Barcelona’s little magician made the difference as he contributed his 13th goal against Los Blancos.
It’s easy to focus on Messi’s goals but he also produces sublime pieces of skill. One of these came against Croatia in the World Cup semifinal. The Argentinian forward lacked some of the speed that characterized his youth. But his technical ability and intelligence made him a deadly threat (via TalkSport).
He had the entire stadium on its feet after he turned Josko Gvaridol inside and out. The Croatia defender won plaudits for his tournament performances but Messi ruined him. It’s a wonder that Gvardiol could walk after the game because Messi twisted him in every direction. Then he passed to Julian Alvarez for an assist.
It says a lot about Messi’s legendary career that he wins even when he loses. Argentina played Germany in the 2014 World Cup Final. This was the first time that he made it to the last stage of the tournament. His fans hoped that he would finally win an international tournament but in the end, Germany won.
Nonetheless, Messi still won the Golden Ball award for the competition’s best player. A famous photograph shows the glum-faced forward clutching his prize after the game. Messi enjoyed three man-of-the-match performances but had a quiet final. He received redemption in 2022 in Qatar (via The Guardian).
Messi holds the record for the most Ballon d’Or wins in history. Every story has a beginning and this one started in 2009 after a sensational season. He received twice as many votes as Cristiano Ronaldo who came in second place. For a few years, the pair had an intense competition as they dominated the prize.
He scored 39 goals as Barcelona won La Liga and the Champions League. This was one of the most dominant years of his legendary career. Interestingly, he also became the first Barcelona youth product to win the award. He emerged from their academy to become the best player on the planet (via Sporting News).
Arsenal had a great team in 2010 and many people compared them to Barcelona. They had an excellent passing style that exhilarated fans and this made them a favorite with neutrals. Analysts expected a display of beautiful soccer when the pair played each other in the Champions League.
However, Arsenal lacked an elite player of Messi’s talent. He was the difference between the two teams as he scored four goals. Arsenal didn’t know what happened to them because Messi couldn’t miss. It was one of the most memorable displays of his legendary career as he sent Arsenal home in tears (via The Guardian).
Messi holds the joint record for the most trophies with a single Spanish club. He spent his full La Liga career with Barcelona and won a ludicrous 35 team prizes with the team. He shares this remarkable accolade with his former teammate, Dani Alves. The Brazilian fullback set the record first before Messi equalized.
Only Ryan Giggs has more trophies than Messi with 36 but many critics don’t agree with this. They discount his Community Shield wins because they don’t think it’s a major trophy. Regardless, Messi’s winning record is nothing short of amazing because he won every team prize available (via Sportskeeda).
Most soccer fans expected Messi to destroy the French league when he joined PSG in 2021. It didn’t work out that way in his first season but he burst into life the following year. PSG played Clermont Foot in the opening game of the new season. They destroyed their hapless opponents in a 5-0 victory (via Four Four Two).
Messi contributed two goals during the game. The first one was the typical Messi goal that we’ve seen him do a million times. But the second was a miraculous overhead bicycle kick. It was a beautiful piece of improvisation that was up there with the goals of the season. Anybody who thought he was declining received a big surprise.
It’s always an incredible feeling when a soccer team wins a treble. The most prestigious version of this is the continental treble with only seven clubs succeeding. This is when a team wins their domestic league and cup as well as the Champion’s League. Barcelona is the only team in history to complete it twice.
Messi was at the center of both of these sides. His first treble came in 2009 and the second arrived in 2015. Furthermore, the first edition was arguably the greatest club soccer team ever. This was when Barcelona had the likes of Iniesta, Xavi, and Carlos Puyol on their roster. Messi was the cherry on top (via Goal).
Argentina vs. The Netherlands was one of the most competitive and intense games of the 2022 World Cup. The Dutch gave everything against the South Americans but fell short. Head Coach Louis Van Gaal pulled off a masterstroke when he threw Wout Weghorst onto the field. The burly forward wreaked havoc and rubbed Argentines the wrong way.
Messi rarely reveals his emotions in public so it’s always entertaining when it happens. Weghorst walked past Messi during the latter’s post-match interview and the superstar exploded. He asked him what he was looking at and also called him a dummy. It was interesting to see his level of investment at the moment (via Pundit Arena).
Messi received a Puskas Award nomination for his gorgeous chip against Real Betis in 2019. He sealed his hat trick with the finish but that wasn’t his best achievement. The Betis fans stood up as one and chanted Messi’s name. It didn’t matter that he was an opposition player because they recognized his greatness (via The Guardian).
“He scored three goals and could have scored a fourth,” Barcelona’s manager Luis Enrique said. “It’s evidence of the player he is. Despite the opposition being on the receiving end, we are all enjoying this era of his, which is unequaled. Significantly, they cheer him; it’s an acknowledgment.”
There probably isn’t another soccer player in history that set more records than Messi. In 2010 he became Argentina’s youngest World Cup captain ever in one of the greatest moments of his legendary career. He led the team into the tournament in South Africa. This was a massive moment for the country because it united Messi with another national icon, Diego Maradona.
Javier Mascherano was the squad’s official captain but Maradona rested him for the first game. However, Messi eventually became the full-time captain and led the team to their third World Cup win in 2022. This made him one of the most successful Argentina players in history (via Reuters).
Jerome Boateng had nightmares after his encounter with Messi in 2015. Barcelona crushed Bayern Munich in the Champions League. Messi was the star of the show and he tore Boateng apart with his devastating skill. Boateng was an elite defender but he couldn’t handle Messi’s brilliance (via The Mirror).
There was one moment that saw him put Boateng on his backside. The German international didn’t know what was happening and lay there with a hapless expression on his face. This is what the best players can do when they’re at the top of their games. Messi also embarrassed Manuel Neuer in the match.
It appeared as though Messi had given up on his international career after retiring in 2016. That decision came after a traumatic Copa America final against Chile. Messi missed a crucial penalty as Argentina lost the game. He received a lot of vitriol from his countrymen after the defeat (via TalkSport).
But he retracted his decision after a couple of months. His passion and agony meant that he made a spontaneous decision. Messi regretted this and that’s a good thing because his return was worthwhile. It meant that he experienced some of the most iconic moments of his legendary career.
2012 saw Messi produce the most scorching goalscoring year of his legendary career. He scored 91 goals for club and country as it appeared that he couldn’t miss. The Argentine forward also scored 73 goals in 60 games across the 2011/12 season. This saw the 24-year-old seal his status as the best player on the planet.
The prolific forward became the main man at Barcelona. David Villa sacrificed a lot as he gave Messi many opportunities. Meanwhile, Pep Guardiola allowed him to occupy a nebulous role. That’s the smartest decision for a coach when they’ve got top talent in their roster (via The Analyst).
Maradona was one of Argentina’s greatest players but he wasn’t as prolific as Messi. He scored 29 goals in 80 games for the Albicileste. Perhaps if he took less cocaine and looked after his body he might have scored more. Messi is Argentina’s record goalscorer with a stunning 98 goals (via GOAL).
However, Gabriel Batistuta holds one record over Messi. He has a higher scoring average with 55 goals in 78 games. Meanwhile, Maradona’s son-in-law, Sergio Aguero is third on the list with 41. Argentina had some tremendous forwards across the years. But it will be a challenge to replace Messi after he ends his legendary career.
Barcelona enjoyed several dominant victories over Real Madrid with Messi in their ranks. He drove them to a higher level and inspired them to some of the most exciting wins in their history. Beating Madrid is always special but their 6-2 2009 win was fascinating for several reasons (via Bleacher Report).
Pep Guardiola revolutionized soccer by placing Messi as the false nine. This meant that he wasn’t as direct as a striker but more forward than an attacking midfielder. It was a unique cerebral role that allowed Messi to use his technical nous. This crushing win was a great moment for Barca fans.
Barcelona didn’t even want to allow Messi to compete in the Olympics. It took Pep Guardiola’s intervention for them to release their young star. Messi even described his gold medal win as the most important victory of his legendary career. That’s because he knew he only had a single opportunity to win this prize.
Messi was brilliant throughout the tournament as he scored and created goals for Argentina. They met Nigeria in the final and the media projected them to be strong favorites. But the Super Eagles refused to back down and held strong. Messi’s scintillating skill was the difference in the end (via Olympics.com).
It may seem crazy to include a 5-0 victory when Messi didn’t score. Nonetheless, he had a brilliant game against Madrid. He pulled their defenders all over the field and dissected them like a biologist. Meanwhile, he had an iconic moment when he walked past Sergio Ramos at the end of the game.
Ramos received a red card after he hacked Messi in injury time. This caused a ruckus between the two teams and the referee intervened. But Messi didn’t allow this to bother him. Commentators called this one of the coldest moments in sports history after he strolled past Ramos with his head held high (via Bleacher Report).
Messi won the World Cup in 2022 but that wasn’t the only remarkable aspect of his tournament. He set and broke many records along the way as one of the tournament’s greatest players. One of these saw him become the first player to score in each round of the same campaign. It was a fantastic stat that’s typical of his legendary career (via ESPN).
Kylian Mbappe was the Golden Boot winner and threatened to steal Messi’s thunder. His bravery and amazing talent inspired France into extra time in the final. But Messi is one of the top clutch players ever and proved this in the shootout. He calmly chipped the ball to Hugo Lloris’s left and the rest is history.
Every striker dreams of scoring a hat trick and bringing home the game ball. Unsurprisingly, Messi has many hat tricks to his name but this particular example was very special. Amazingly, he scored all three goals for Barcelona in a draw against Real Madrid. He was 19 at the time and lit up the game.
Madrid took the lead three times in the game but Messi pulled Barcelona level without fail. It was very dramatic because it required him to perform in a clutch situation. This is typical of his legendary career because he pulls his teams out of bad situations. Even the young Messi was amazing at this (via Sport Bible).
No player in history has more Ballon D’or wins than Messi. He claimed the prize a record seven times as he left Ronaldo trailing in his wake. The pair dominated the coveted prize for over a decade. It even appeared that Ronaldo could usurp Messi but he fell short. The Portuguese striker has five trophies to his name (via Sporting News).
One of the most remarkable aspects of Messi’s seven victories is his consistent brilliance. His first one came in 2007 while his final Ballon D’Or arrived in 2021. There are issues with this award because offensive players receive a disproportionate number of votes. But his longevity is amazing and deserves immense credit.
After this game, Sir. Alex Ferguson described Barcelona as the best team he ever coached again. This was high praise from the legendary Manchester United manager after his team lost the Champions League Final. They had high hopes of beating the Spanish team on home soil in Wembley but couldn’t compete.
Messi produced a masterclass against United as he continuously ripped them apart. He scored a goal against them but this was the cherry on top of his sensational performance. It was one of the most complete displays of his legendary career. This was the type of game that players dream of (via Bleacher Report).
Many Argentines felt that Messi didn’t belong in the same category as Diego Maradona. That’s because he didn’t enjoy any international success with the national team. He retired because of the pressure and exhaustion that he felt from representing them without winning anything.
However, Messi returned and won Copa America in 2021. Argentina won South America’s biggest international event in the home of their arch rival Brazil. It was also Messi’s 10th major tournament with his nation and changed his status there. It made him a diehard favorite at home for the first time in his legendary career (via BBC).
Finally, Messi won the World Cup in Qatar in 2022. There was a lot of pre-tournament focus on him because everybody expected that it would be the 34-year-old’s final international event. Many analysts predicted that Argentina would be a contender but soccer rarely produces a fairytale ending.
But Messi was central to his nation’s run to the final against France. He became the first player to score in every round of a single World Cup. Meanwhile, he helped inspire Argentina in one of the most frantic and exciting finals ever. Then he slotted away a cool penalty kick in the decisive shootout (via Daily Mirror).