A prize for Barça's youth policy www.fcbarcelona.cat Messi joined Barça at the age of 13. His innate talent combined with a consistent style of football have created an incredible player. The first Golden Ball to emerge from the Barça academy. But it wasn't an easy ride for the young Leo Messi. After just two matches with infantil B, he suffered a serious ankle injury that kept him on the sidelines for the rest of the season. He then missed half the following season due to an appeal by his former club, Newell's Old Boys in Argentina, which delayed the arrival of his international transfer.
Those difficulties, combined with the brusque change from his hometown of Rosario to Barcelona, were a tremendous obstacle to overcome for a shy and reserved youngster.
The international transfer eventually came through and the 2002-03 season was a turning point in his career. He was a vital element in the cadet A side that won everything going and where he coincided with Piqué and Cesc.
Messi started the following season in juvenil B, but his talent was so outstanding that he was moved up a category. That year he moved to juvenil A, to Barça C and to Barça B. And to round off a fantastic year he made his first team debut in a friendly against Porto. The sky was the limit for Leo Messi.
Albert Benaiges, currently Barça's coordinator of youth football, told Barça TV: “That achievement is a lesson for all players. I've never seen anyone with such humility and good taste for playing football who accepts to play where he's told without ever protesting and with such happiness and love for the Club”.
A long awaited moment
Leo Messi will never forget 2004. On 16th October, in a local derby against Espanyol, Leo Messi finally made his first team competitive debut. Two months later on 7th December, he played his first Champions League match in the cold of the Ukraine against Shakhtar Donetsk. Then he scored his first senior goal against Albacete. The Messi era had begun.