Lionel Messi began his career as a 17-year-old in the blue-and-red jersey of Barcelona.
Lionel Messi began his career as a 17-year-old in the blue-and-red jersey of Barcelona and it was exactly 15 years ago that the six-time Ballon d’Or winner scored the first of his 627 career goals. Messi’s first-ever goal for the Catalan side came in the stoppage time against Albacete when an inch-perfect assist by Ronaldinho was chipped over the goalie deftly by the Argentine. Barcelona won the match 2-0 eventually.
Here’s a look at the Barcelona lineup that played against Albacete when Messi, aged 17 years, 10 months and seven days, announced himself to the world with his first La Liga goal —
GK: Víctor Valdés
The Catalan goalkeeper knew Messi from their time together at La Masia and made almost 400 first-team appearances for the club in La Liga between 2002 and 2014. He finished his career with brief spells at Manchester United, Standard Liege, and Middlesbrough.
RB: Juliano Belletti
Brazilian full-back Juliano Belletti is fondly remembered for his winning goal in the 2006 Champions League final, a match which Messi missed due to an injury. He had a brief stint with Chelsea afterward and retired from football after playing for a while in Brazil in 2011.
CB: Oleguer Presas
Oleguer was handed his first-team debut by Louis van Gaal in 2003. After spending five years at the Catalan club, the center back switched to Ajax, where he finished his career in 2011.
CB: Carles Puyol
Carles Puyol, who is regarded as the club icon, retired from the sport in 2014 with six La Ligas and three UEFA Champions League titles. He briefly returned to the club as assistant to director Andoni Zubizarreta until 2015. Recently in 2019, Puyol came close to a return to the club as sporting director.
LB: Giovanni van Bronckhorst
The Dutch footballer left Camp Nou in 2007 to return to his hometown club Feyenoord. After retiring in 2010, he stepped into a coaching role, working his way up to head coach, and in 2017 led the club to their first Eredivisie title in almost 20 years. Van Bronckhorst is now the head coach at the Chinese Super League side Guangzhou R&F.
CM: Andrés Iniesta
The mercurial midfielder racked up 442 league appearances – along with nine La Liga titles and four UEFA Champions League trophies – for Barcelona before leaving for Japanese J-League side Vissel Kobe in 2018. He also famously scored the winning goal for Spain in the 2010 World Cup final against the Netherlands.
CDM: Rafael Márquez
Rafael Márquez played until the age of 38, spending time in the USA, Italy, and his native Mexico after leaving Barcelona after a seven-year spell in 2010. He made his final professional appearance at the 2018 World Cup, a record-breaking fifth tournament for Mexico at football’s showpiece competition.
A mainstay in the Barcelona midfield after arriving in the Camp Nou in 2004, the Brazilian-born Portugal international made 113 league appearances for the club. He moved on after the arrival of Pep Guardiola in the Barça dugout in 2008, first to Chelsea in England before ending his career in Brazil with Fluminense. He stayed in Brazil after retirement, working as a player agent and even starting his own representation agency.
RF: Ludovic Giuly
Ludovic Giuly was a key part of Barça’s three-pronged attack force along with Ronaldinho and Samuel Eto’o. The Frenchman left for Roma in 2007, before moving back home to finish his career in France.
CF: Samuel Eto’o
Samuel Eto’o scored 108 goals in 144 La Liga appearances for Barcelona. After leaving Camp Nou in 2010, he went on to play for the likes of Inter Milan, Anzhi Makhachkala, and Chelsea, ending his career last year with almost 300 top-flight goals.
Ronaldinho danced and dribbled his way into the hearts of football fans around the world while at Barcelona. He left Camp Nou when Pep Guardiola arrived in 2008 and went on to play for AC Milan – where he won the Scudetto in 2010 – before spells in Brazil and Mexico. Ronaldinho retired as one of only seven players to have won the World Cup, Champions League, and the Ballon d’Or.
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