MANU FERNANDEZ/Associated Press

A date that saw the beginning of a journey that would change the course of history for Barcelona, October 16 will forever be seen as a watershed moment at the Camp Nou club.

It was on that date in 2004 when Lionel Messi made his official debut for the club, appearing as a substitute in La Liga and initiating a career that has since seen him play almost 600 games for the team and score well over 500 goals.

He has broken records, lifted trophies, hauled the team to success and become the world’s greatest player in the eyes of many—both now and all time—and Messi’s legacy will never be forgotten.

On the anniversary of his breakthrough, we look back at his debuts in different competitions in turn and assess the impact of the then-teenager in each one.


Honourable Mentions

Unofficial and International Debuts

Argentine Lionel Messi (D) vies for the ball with Peruvian Rainer Torres 09 October, 2005 at the Monumental stadium in Buenos Aires, Argentina, during their FIFA World Cup Germany 2006 South American qualifying round match.  AFP PHOTO/Juan MABROMATA (Phot


It’s worth remembering Messi’s journey to the Barcelona first team started many years previously; his initial trial with the club came in 2000, and it wasn’t until 2003/04 that the 16-year-old Messi had progressed to youth A-team level.

A call-up to train with the seniors during an international break saw him feature in a friendly as a late substitute in November 2003 against Jose Mourinho’s FC Porto.

As ESPN FC’s Dermot Corrigan reported, Messi later told a Barcelona TV programme the moment was a “dream come true” and that the date, November 16, was of immense importance to him. It would be almost another year before he made his competitive debut, though.

For Argentina, his debut came in 2005 against Hungary. Had we been ranking international debuts too, this one would have featured dead last.

Messi came on as a second-half sub against Hungary, and was sent off two minutes later for a perceived elbow on an opponent.


6. Copa del Rey

BARCELONA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 26:  Leo Messi of Barcelona plays the ball during the match between FC Barcelona and Malaga of the Spanish Primera Liga at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain. Barcelona won 2-0.  (Photo by Luis Bagu/Getty Images)

Luis Bagu/Getty Images

It is sometimes suggested that great dynasties have humble beginnings; that couldn’t be more apt in the case of Messi and his first start for Barcelona.

That memorable day—to him, if not the club in this case—came on October 27, 2004, just 11 days after his official debut as a substitute.

Messi lined up alongside Henrik Larsson and Ludovic Giuly in the attack, with the likes of Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Rafael Marquez and Carles Puyol all in the lineup too, but it was a humbling occasion as the giants suffered an embarrassing 1-0 loss at the hands of UDA Gramenet.

Then a third-tier side, Gramenet won thanks to a goal from an ex-Barca youth player Oscar Olles, with El Pais‘ report noting Barca’s “big defect was a lack of [potent] attack.”

That was not a great sign of what was to come with Messi in the front line, in fairness.


5. UEFA Champions League

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Messi debuted in three competitions in his first five matches for Barcelona’s senior team, with a first European appearance coming in December 2004.

It was a group-stage dead rubber, with Messi only having been an unused sub at that point in the Champions League against AC Milan twice. His first taste on a continental pitch came at Shakhtar Donetsk with Barca already guaranteed a top-two finish in the group.

Messi played the full 90 minutes on this occasion but once more suffered defeat. A much-changed Barca side—though still with Puyol, Iniesta, Xavi and Victor Valdes—lost 2-0, and Messi failed to have much of an impact.

This was to be his only experience of European football that season, as he was left out of the squads for the round-of-16 legs wherein Barca were knocked out by Chelsea.


4. UEFA Super Cup

MANU FERNANDEZ/Associated Press

Fast forward a year and a half, and Barcelona won the Champions League, though Messi missed the run-in and the final through injury. It meant they began the 2006/07 campaign with a UEFA Super Cup showdown against Sevilla in late August—though once more, a Messi competition debut was ruined by defeat.

Their Spanish rivals, who won the previous season’s UEFA Cup with a 4-0 over Middlesbrough in the final, ran out 3-0 winners against Barca in Monaco.

Messi was a regular starter by this point, one-third of the famous front line that also included Ronaldinho and Samuel Eto’o, but they were outshone by Frederic Kanoute and Co.

The man of the match on the night was Dani Alves, still a Sevilla player at this point but not for long. He left for Barca just one year later to form a formidable partnership with Messi down the right flank—but he completely outshone the Argentinian on this occasion, as his team did to Barca overall.

Messi didn’t even get a mention in the UEFA match report, failing to make an impact.

He has since gone on to win and score in the event, but this Super Cup experience wasn’t one to remember.


3. La Liga

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