Lionel Messi's La Liga debut for Barcelona - Who were his team-mates and where are they now?

Classic teams Barcelona Lionel Messi debutGOAL

Lionel Messi, an FC Barcelona youth product, was promoted to the senior team during the 2004-05 season and he made his La Liga debut for the club on October 16, 2004, against city rivals Espanyol.

The Argentine came on as a substitute replacing Deco in the 82nd minute of the match. At the age of 17 years and three months, Messi became the youngest player to represent Barcelona in an official competition.

Although Messi had played for the Barcelona senior team a year before against FC Porto, it was a friendly tie between the two clubs and not an official game.

The Argentine's debut La Liga match has two unusual India connections. Former FC Goa defender Carlos Pena was in the matchday squad but did not feature in the match. Also, former Bengaluru FC and Hyderabad FC coach Albert Roca was a part of Frank Rijkaard's coaching team when Messi played his first game.

Since the Espanyol tie in 2004, Messi appeared in a total of 520 La Liga matches donning the Barcelona shirt. He also became the most-capped Barcelona player of all time with 778 matches under his belt.

Let us take a look at the players who played alongside Messi in his La Liga debut for Barcelona and where are they now?

  
  • Victor Valdes BarcelonaGetty

    1Victor Valdes - GK

    A Barcelona academy product, Victor Valdes played for the club for 12 years from 2002 to 2014 after which he joined Manchester United. During the 2015-16 season, Valdes was sent on loan to Belgian side Standard Liege. In 2017, Valdes retired from professional football after playing a year at Middlesbrough.

    In 2018, Valdes completed his UEFA Pro Licence and joined a local Madrid club ED Moratalaz's youth team. In 2019, he returned to Barcelona and took charge of the club's Juvenil A side as their head coach. Since 2020, he is managing a local Barcelona club UA Horta.

  • Juliano Belletti, BarcelonaGetty Images

    2Juliano Belletti - RB

    The Brazilian right-back joined Barcelona in 2004 and played at the club for three seasons before joining Chelsea. He retired from professional football in 2011 after suffering from a serious Achilles tendon injury. 

    In February 2021, Belletti joined Brazilian Serie B club Cruzeiro as their assistant manager.

  • Carles Puyol Barcelona Henrik Larsson Celtic 25032004Getty Images

    3Carles Puyol - CB

    Club legend and former captain Carles Puyol played for Barcelona all through his career from 1999 to 2014. He won all major trophies with Spanish giants which include six La Liga titles and three Champions Leagues. Puyol is the club's fifth most-capped player of all time with 593 appearances under his belt.
  • Oleguer Presas of BarcelonaGetty

    4Oleguer Presas - CB

    The Spanish central defender played at Barcelona for six seasons (2003 to 2008) after which he moved to Ajax. He retired from professional football in 2011. Oleguer Presas currently works as a coach at a local football school in Catalunya.
  • Giovanni van Bronckhorst, BarcelonaGetty Images

    5Giovanni van Bronckhorst - LB

    The left-back played at Barcelona for four seasons from 2003 to 2007. Other than the Spanish giants, Giovanni van Bronckhorst has played for clubs like Arsenal and Feyenoord. He retired from professional football in 2010.

    A year later in 2011, the Dutchman joined Feyenoord as an assistant coach where he worked for four seasons before taking over as the club's head coach in 2015. In four seasons as head coach, Van Bronckhorst won five titles including one league title. In 2020, he joined Guangzhou R&F but in December, he left the club citing personal reasons.

    Recently, the former Barcelona has expressed his desire to manage the Dutch national.

  • Lionel Messi, Rafael Marquez, Cristiano Ronaldo, Barcelona vs. Manchester UnitedGetty Images

    6Rafael Marquez - DM

    The Mexican was predominantly a central defender but in this match, coach Frank Rijkaard played him as a defensive midfielder. Marquez played at Barcelona for seven seasons from 2003 to 2010 after which he moved to MLS side New York Red Bulls. He retired from professional football in 2018 after spending two seasons at Mexican club Atlas FC.

    Upon retirement, he was appointed as the sporting president of Atlas, a post he held until 2019. In 2021, he joined Spanish Tercera division club Alcala as a youth team coach.

  • Xavi BarcelonaGetty

    7Xavi Hernandez - CM

    One of the greatest players to have have donned the Barcelona shirt, Xavi Hernandez was the most-capped Barcelona player with 767 appearances until February 2021 when his former teammate Lionel Messi broke the record.

    After leaving Barcelona in 2015 where he has been playing since 1998, the Spaniard joined Qatari club Al Sadd where he spent the final four seasons of his professional career. Upon retirement in 2019, he took over as the head coach of Al Sadd.

  • DecoGetty

    8Deco - CM

    The legendary Portuguese midfielder joined Barcelona after winning the Champions League with Porto in 2004. He played at Barcelona for four seasons winning the La Liga twice and the Champions League once. 

    After his Barcelona stint, he joined Chelsea and then finally retired from professional football 2013 at Fluminense.

  • Samuel Eto'o Barcelona 2009Jasper Juinen

    9Samuel Eto'o - RW

    The legendary Cameroon striker played for five seasons at Barcelona from 2004 to 2009. He later played for Inter Milan, Chelsea and Everton. He retired from professional football in 2019 after spending a season with Qatar SC. He is currently the Legacy Ambassador of Qatar World Cup 2022.

  • Henrik Larsson Barcelona 2006Getty Images

    10Henrik Larsson - FW

    The former Sweden international striker played for two seasons at Barcelona, 2004 to 2006. Other than Barcelona he played for some top clubs like Feyenoord, Celtic and Manchester United. In 2009, he had announced his retirement from professional football but he came out of his retirement twice in 2012 and 2013 when he played a match each for Swedish clubs Raa IF and Hogaborgs BK.

    Since 2010 he has worked as a head coach and assistant coach in several Swedish clubs like Landskrona BoIS, Hogaborgs and Falkenbergs FF. In 2020, after Ronaldo Koeman joined Barcelona as head coach, Larsson joined his coaching and is currently working as an assistant at the Spanish club.

  • Ronaldinho Barcelona 2005-06

    11Ronaldinho - LW

    The Brazilian legend played at Barcelona from 2003-2008. During that period, he won six titles including two La Ligas and one Champions League. In January 2018, Ronaldinho announced his retirement from professional football.

  • Andres Iniesta Barcelona Sevilla 22052016Getty

    12Andres Iniesta - Sub

    A La Masia product, Iniesta made his Barcelona debut in 2002 and went on to play until 2018. He is the club's third-highest most-capped player after Lionel Messi and Xavi Hernandez. After leaving Barcelona, he moved to the J-League to join Vissel Kobe. In May 2021, the 37-year-old midfielder signed a fresh two-year contract with the club.

  • Lionel Messi Barcelona La Liga Real Madrid 2007Getty

    13Lionel Messi - Sub

    Lionel Messi's contract with Barcelona ended in 2021 but he is very close to signing a fresh five-year contract with the club. He recently guided Argentina to Copa America 2021 triumph. This was his first major international trophy with La Albiceleste.