From shy teenager to world beater: Messi's tremendous timeline at Barcelona

The Argentine inked a new deal on Thursday which will keep him at Camp Nou until the age of 31 and takes a look at his standout moments on an epic journey to greatness
By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Writer

His first signature was scribbled hastily on a napkin at the age of 13. But by the time his latest contract runs out, he will be 31.

Lionel Messi put pen to paper on a new deal on Thursday, which will keep him at Barcelona until 2018. The contract, agreed late last year, was part of the three-player agreement which saw captain Carles Puyol and vice-captain Xavi also extend their stays at the Catalan club.

But while those two are approaching the end of their careers, Messi is still only 25 and the next few seasons could represent his peak as a player - a frightening thought when one considers he is already touted by many as the finest footballer to have ever graced the game.

With 298 goals in just 363 appearances for Barca, Leo has gone from strength to strength since making his debut in 2004, smashing a series of records last year in particular. And he shows no sign of stopping now either.

Here, takes a look at his timeline since he moved up to the first team at Camp Nou as a shy and slight young prospect more than eight years ago.

March 6
Leo turned out for five teams in a single season (2003-04) as he progressed through the ranks at the Catalan club and made his debut for Barca B towards the end of the campaign. Still only 16, he alternated between Barca B and Barca C that season.
October 16
Messi made his official first team debut later that year in a derby against Espanyol, aged just 17 years and 114 days. He was the youngest player ever to play a competitive match for the Catalans, a record later broken by team-mate Bojan Krkic. He had also appeared in a friendly against Jose Mourinho's Porto in November 2003, still aged 16.

May 1
The Argentine came off the bench in a home match against Albacete and, after seeing one effort disallowed, latched on to a pass from Ronaldinho to score a brilliant lob in added time. Still 17, he became the club's youngster-ever scorer (later beaten by Bojan). It would be the first of many.
May 22 Barcelona drew 3-3 at Villarreal and Messi won his first trophy as a Blaugrana: La Liga. He ended the season with seven appearances for the first team and one goal - the strike against Albacete.
July 2
Messi followed in the footsteps of his idol Diego Maradona as he led Argentina's Under-20 side to a World Cup win and received a phone call from the great man himself. He would make his full international debut the following month, against Hungary - just like Maradona had done.
September 16
Leo signed his first professional contract with the Catalan club, keeping him at Camp Nou until 2014. His release clause was set at €150m. Messi had arrived five years earlier as a fragile and shy 13-year-old. But even then, the club could sense he was destined for great things.
 September 27
Leo made his Champions League debut against Udinese at Camp Nou and left the pitch to a standing ovation, something he would become accustomed to. A day earlier, he had been given Spanish nationality.

March 1
Messi scored his first international goal as he netted in a 3-2 defeat to Croatia in Switzerland.
March 7 Just six days later, a promising campaign with Barcelona came to an end as he suffered a tear in his right thigh muscle against Chelsea in the Champions League. Barca would go on to win the European competition and La Liga, but Leo was forced to watch on from the sidelines.
June 16
Days before his 19th birthday, Messi netted for Argentina in the 6-0 win over Serbia & Montenegro at the World Cup in Germany. It remains his only goal in international football's showpiece event.
November 12
Leo suffered serious injury for the second time in months as he broke his metatarsal in a league game against Zaragoza. He was ruled out for three months.

March 10
Messi scored three times (all equalisers) as a Barcelona side down to 10 men drew 3-3 at home to Real Madrid in La Liga. Leo became the first player to score a Clasico hat-trick since Ivan Zamorano in 1994-95 and remains the last man to have done so. He is also the fixture's youngest-ever scorer.
April 18
Against Getafe in the Copa del Rey, Leo scored a carbon copy of Maradona's goal against England in the 1986 World Cup. Picking up the ball in a similar position in his own half, Messi beat five players and the goalkeeper (as Diego had done) and covered around the same distance (62 metres).

February 27
Still only 20, Messi made his 100th competitive appearance for Barcelona in a league game against Valencia.
March 4
The Argentine tore a muscle in his thigh in the Champions League clash against Celtic and was sidelined for six weeks. He has not suffered a serious injury since.
June 18
Pep Guardiola was presented as coach of Barcelona and announced that Deco, Samuel Eto'o and Ronaldinho would be leaving the club. Eto'o ended up staying but the Brazilian departed and Messi inherited his number 10 shirt. He would also play his best football yet under the new coach.
May 2 Messi started in a central role and did much damage as Barcelona inflicted a 6-2 drubbing on Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu. It was Real's heaviest defeat since 1930 and ensured Barca went on to win La Liga - Messi's third at the Catalan club.
May 13 Leo scored one and assisted another two as Barca thrashed Athletic Bilbao 4-1 in Valencia to win the Copa del Rey. It was the first time the Argentine had won the trophy.
May 27
Messi scored a rare header to seal victory for Barcelona in the Champions League final against Manchester United, a moment of real personal satisfaction after he missed the showpiece through injury. The Catalans had won the treble and Leo ended the campaign with 38 goals.
September 18
The formidable forward signed a contract extension with Barcelona to run until 2016 and his release clause was raised to a massive €250m.
December 1
Messi won his first Ballon d'Or, beating Cristiano Ronaldo by a record margin - 473 votes to 233. He was also the winner of the Fifa World Player of the Year prize, awarded later in the month. The two titles have since been merged.
December 19
The Argentine scored the winner in extra time as Barcelona beat Estudiantes to win the Club World Cup. Guardiola's side had won six out of six trophies in a 15-month period, but the coach admitted that it would not have been possible without Messi.

January 17
Messi scored his 100th goal for Barcelona as the Catalans thrashed Sevilla 4-0.
March 24
After becoming the first player to net back-to-back Liga hat-tricks for the Catalan club (versus Valencia and Zaragoza), he made his 200th official Barca appearance against Osasuna later in March.
April 6
Leo scored four times in a competitive match for the first time in his career as he netted all four of Barca's goals in the Catalans' 4-1 Champions League win over Arsenal at Camp Nou. Afterwards, Arsene Wenger described him as a "Playstation player".
May 16
Messi scored twice as Barcelona beat Valladolid 4-0. The win saw Guardiola's side seal La Liga, but they missed out on the Copa del Rey and the Champions League. Messi finished as Pichichi and equalled Ronaldo's records (34 league goals for Barca; 47 in total). He was also La Liga's Player of the Year.

January 10 Messi won the 2010 Ballon d'Or for the second time as the prize was merged with the Fifa World Player of the Year award. Andres Iniesta and Xavi finished second and third, respectively, to make it a Barcelona 1-2-3.
April 12
Netted his 48th goal of the campaign as Barcelona beat Shakhtar Donetsk and surpassed Ronaldo's record of 47 strikes in a single season for the Catalan club. He would finish 2010-11 tied with another Ronaldo, Cristiano, on 55 goals in all competitions.
May 28
After hitting a wonderful double in the semi-final win against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu, Leo scored the all-important second in the 3-1 victory over Manchester United at Wembley to claim his third Champions League.
August 17
The Argentine scored three and assisted the other two as Barca beat Madrid 5-4 on aggregate in a bad-tempered Spanish Supercopa series.
 December 19 Messi hit two goals in a one-sided Club World Cup final clash against Santos. He finished as Man of the Match, won Golden Ball for being the tournament's best player and had emulated Pedro's feat (from 2009) of scoring in all six competitions.

January 9 The Argentine beat Cristiano Ronaldo and team-mate Xavi to win his third Ballon d'Or at a ceremony in Zurich.
March 7 Having hit four against Valencia on his 200th Liga appearance in February, Messi went one better as he struck five in a 7-1 win over Bayer Leverkusen. He became the first player to net five in the Champions League since the tournament was rebranded in 1992.
March 20
Leo netted a hat-trick against Granada in La Liga to surpass Cesar Rodriguez as the all-time top goalscorer in Barcelona's history. Cesar's total of 232 had been reduced from 235 after Barca checked their stats. It is pretty irrelevant now though.
May 2
Beat Gerd Muller's record of 67 goals in a single season, set for Bayern Munich in 1972-73. Messi, who scored as Barca won the Copa del Rey in Guardiola's last game as coach, ended the season with 73 strikes in total.
 December 9
His two goals against Betis saw him surpass Muller's mark of 85 goals in a calendar year for club and country. A month earlier, he had overtaken Pele's total of 75. Messi would finish 2012 with a total of 91 goals for club and country.

January 7
Messi began the year by winning his fourth straight Ballon d'Or, beating Ronaldo and Andres Iniesta this time in Zurich.
January 27
The Argentine scored four goals in a home match against Osasuna, including his 200th in La Liga.
February 7
Signed a new deal with Barcelona which keeps him at the Catalan club until the age of 31. "I have no idea how I will be playing then," he admitted. The deal runs out in 2018, while his release clause remains at €250m.

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