Opinion: 17 years after his Barcelona debut, Lionel Messi stands alone at football’s top table

On November 16, 2003, Lionel Andres Messi, a 16-year-old Argentinian, took his first tentative steps in Barcelona’s first team, coming on as a substitute in a friendly against Jose Mourinho’s Porto.

It’s not too far from the truth to say that he’s had football supporters in his thrall ever since.

Football is truly an art form when the diminutive No.10 is concerned, and though he may be coming towards the end of an incredible career, his work will stand the test of time.

Most ever goals for Barcelona and in La Liga. Most ever assists for Barcelona and in La Liga. Most ever goals and assists in El Clasico matches.

Most ever goals in a calendar year, most European Golden Shoe wins (6) ever and most Ballon d’Or wins (6) ever.

Most assists in the Champions League, and the only player in history to score against all of his league opponents consecutively in the same league campaign.

Aside from the stats, it’s his contribution in games that sets him apart.

There is barely a weakness to his natural game, and only Cristiano Ronaldo comes close to the application and consistency over a decade and a half at the top level.

He’s still to win a World Cup of course, and that will always be held against him were he not to do so in 2022.

However, a six-game, four-week tournament doesn’t really compare to 17 seasons of pure excellence. He has no equal and it’s time to stop comparing him with others.

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