Watch: 20 of the best on-field Lionel Messi moments
As if you needed reminding of how great the man is.Meryl D'Souza June 23, 2016
Despite everything Lionel Messi has achieved over the years, people still like to point out his flaws and failures. They’ll tell you about his tax scams, his name in the Panama papers and about how he needs to win a tournament with Argentina to confirm his legendary status.
This seems to be his year though. A fifth Ballon d’Or sits pretty next to an eighth La Liga trophy and a fourth Copa del Rey trophy in the cabinet. Detractors will point to a Champions League trophy-shaped hole in that very cabinet, but should he be able to lead Argentina past Chile in the 2016 Copa America final this month, all will be forgiven.
With the Argentinian turning 29 on June 24, we take a look at his best on-field moments ever since he first took to the field.
2005 vs Albacete
We have to take it back to where it all began. It took Barcelona were at the top while Albacete were relegation candidates. Yet, the Catalans struggled until Samuel Eto’o gave them the lead. Still, Barcelona failed to put the game to bed. With a slender lead, then manager Frank Rijkaard decided to take off the goal scorer and throw in a 17-year-old graduate from Barcelona’s youth academy.
It took that scrawny kid 17 seconds to score. Sadly, his celebration was cut short by the linesman who (wrongly) deemed the Argentinian offside. About a minute after he was denied, Messi found himself at the end of a scrumptiously lobbed ball courtesy Ronaldino. The young boy, seeing the keeper off his line, delectably chipped the ball over his head to score the first of his 400-plus goals.
2007 vs Real Madrid
You wouldn’t expect a 19-year-old kid with just over a full season under his belt to save his team the blushes against one of the best teams in the world, but that’s exactly what Messi did. Three times Real took the lead through Ruud van Nistelrooy and Sergio Ramos and thrice Messi scored. Leaving Fabio Cannavaro (then European Player of the Year) looking like a school kid.
2007 vs Getafe
The comparisons to all-time football great Diego Maradona were already in the air, but sceptics refused to bite. The kid was too young and still had so much to prove. Then a 19-year-old Messi became front page news for eerily replicating Maradona’s 1986 World Cup quarter-final goal that sent England crashing out. Messi did it against Getafe. Like Maradona, touching the ball 13 times as he dribbled past five before (again, like Maradona) shooting past the sixth player. Someone even made a video of the two side by side.
2007 vs Mexico
"Only a genius could do this," said Argentina coach Alfio Basile of Messi's effort. He probably had no idea just how right he was. Messi was and is a genius. Where many would choose to curl the ball into the net or go for power, Messi saw the keeper off his line and lobbed the ball over a defender and the keeper to increase Argentina’s lead.
2009 vs Manchester United
It was Cristiano Ronaldo against Lionel Messi for the very first time. Both players were regarded as the best in the world and were vying for the Ballon d’Or. Leading up to the game, Messi was on the receiving end of a lot of slack for his lack of headed goals. As if to prove a point, he came up and scored with a header.
2010 vs Real Zaragoza
Messi scored a hat-trick in this one. The pick of the three though was his second. Like we’ve grown accustomed to now, Messi dribbled past three before shooting past the fourth. Yes, we’ve seen it so many times, but that doesn’t make it any less special.
2011 vs Arsenal
We could have added his four goals against Arsenal the year before this match took place, but that was at a time when Barcelona were steamrolling everything in sight. While they were doing the same domestically at the time of this one, Arsenal had the advantage with a home tie win. But Barcelona had Messi. The Argentinian controlled a lobbed ball from Andres Iniesta with one touch, juggled the ball over the Arsenal keeper and dispatched the volley into the open net.
2012 vs Bayer Leverkusen
Before Messi arrived to play Leverkusen, no player had ever scored five in a Champions League match. So in stepped Lionel Messi, lobbing the keeper twice, smashing it past a crowd twice and tapping in a fortunate rebound.
2012 vs Brazil
Pele and Maradona took digs at each other’s protégés before the friendly. Pele claimed Neymar was the best in the world to which Maradona replied, “Maybe Neymar is the best player in the world, but only if you say that Messi is from a different planet". The lead exchanged hands three times before Argentina scored through Messi to win the game 4-3 on the back of a Lionel Messi hat-trick.
2013 vs Getafe
“Brilliance on steroids,” the commentators said of the goal. We couldn’t help but agree.
2013 vs Athletic Bilbao
The magician had missed a couple of games nursing a hamstring injury. Coming on as a substitute to help his team who were already trailing the game by a goal, Messi weaved his way through a crowd of defenders before slotting home with his left foot.
2013 vs AC Milan
Barcelona had lost the previous tie 2-0 and needed to better that margin if they were to head to the quarter-finals of the Champions League. Five minutes into the second leg, Messi put the ball into Milan’s top corner before the keeper even had a chance to move. 30 minutes later, the Argentine scored another to bring his team on level terms. David Villa and Jordi Alba added two more as Barcelona made history by becoming the first team to overturn a two-goal first-leg deficit without help from an away goal.
2014 vs Iran
Argentina made it to the final of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, but it could have all gone horribly wrong in the group stages. Not only did the Iranians defend well, they created massive problems for Argentina’s back line and were denied a strong penalty claim. They seemed to have nicked a point for all their troubles, and they would have, had it not been for a 91st minute curling effort by the Argentinian captain to save his team the blushes.
2015 vs Manchester City
No goal to speak of here, just a piece of beautiful skill. The Argentinian, who was absolutely brilliant through the Champions League game, nonchalantly nipped the ball through Milner's legs, leaving him on the floor to the amusement of Pep Guardiola. The current Manchester City manager may not see the funny side of that move this season though.
2015 vs Bayern Munich
Jerome boating is largely considered one of the best defenders in the world. Messi makes him look like a man with malfunctioning limbs.
2015 vs Athletic Bilbao
At the final of the King’s Cup, the King started the proceedings quickly. 19 minutes into the game, the Argentinian beat three men down the right wing, cut inside a fourth man making his way inside the box and smashed the ball beyond the near post.
2016 vs Celta de Vigo
You’ve seen Messi effortlessly dribble past a number of opponents, but sometimes the maestro doesn’t feel like doing the same thing over and over so instead he uses the referee as a decoy. That’s the best football hack you’ll ever see.
2016 vs Bolivia
Messi was sent through clear on goal, but a heavy first touch meant he had to re-route. With no support, the Argentinian had the audacity to nutmeg Bolivia’s goalkeeper. He looked set to score before the linesman rightly deemed him offside.
2016 vs Panama
Argentina were in cruise control but led minnows Panama by one goal. With half an hour to play, in came Messi. It took him seven minutes to double Argentina’s lead before adding his second and a third for Argentina 10 minutes later. Messi capped the day with a third for himself with three minutes of play left.
2016 vs USA
Messi helped Argentina reach the final of the 2016 Copa America by creating the first and third, and scoring the second as Argentina destroyed the USMNT. Messi scored with an unstoppable free-kick to become Argentina’s all-time leading goal scorer with 55 goals.