The term world class is used a lot in the modern game, but when it comes to Barcelona's No.10, that is the only phrase that describes what an incredible and rare talent Leo Messi is.
For me and many others, he is the best player in the world and here's a look at how this Argentine forward took the beautiful game to another level.
Messi began his football career at the age of eight when he signed a youth contract with Newell's Old Boys, a team based in his hometown of Rosario. He showed promise even as a youngster and caught the eye of high-profile Argentine club, River Plate, however the Buenos Aires side were not willing to pay Messi's medical bills the young forward needed in order to treat his growth deficiency which he was diagnosed with at the age of 11.
However, the then sporting director of Spanish giants, Barcelona, was aware of the talent Messi possessed and offered to pay his medical fees if the Argentine moved to Spain and joined the club's youth academy. Messi moved to Spain with his father and signed with Barcelona's famed youth club.
After impressing for the Catalan club's youth team, Messi played for the C team in 2003 where he scored five goals in 10 matches before moving up the ranks to the B side in 2004. Later that year, Frank Rijkaard handed the Argentine forward his league debut against Espanyol and with that, Messi became the youngest player to play a La Liga match at the age of 17.
He scored the first senior goal of his career against Albacete towards the end of that season, a small indication of what was to come from this incredible talent. The following season, Messi featured in 17 league matches and six Champions League matches, scoring seven goals as Barcelona were crowned champions of both Spain and Europe. He also won his first cap for Argentina in 2005.
During the 2006/07 season, Messi became a more prominent figure in the first-team squad, scoring 17 times in 36 appearances in all competitions including a hat-trick in a 3-3 draw with bitter rivals Real Madrid, becoming the first player in over 10 years to score a hat-trick in a match between the two clubs.
Following this impressive campaign, Messi had been dubbed 'the new Diego Maradona' for his similar ability to the Argentina World Cup winner. As the season progressed, Messi was nominated for the FIFA World XI Player award and was also in the running for the Ballon d'Or and FIFA World Player of the Year award, finishing behind Cristiano Ronaldo and the eventual winner Kaka. Unfortunately for Messi and Barcelona, the Catalan club missed out on domestic and European success in 2007/08.
Messi was given the famous No.10 jersey at Barcelona following the departure of Ronaldinho. During this campaign Messi was named second in the 2008 FIFA World Player of the Year award behind Ronaldo. However the Argentine forward was on the brink of becoming the best player in the world, scoring 38 goals in all competitions as Barcelona won the treble of Copa del Rey, La Liga and the Champions League, becoming the first Spanish side to do so.
His rival of the past was about to become his rival of present and future as Ronaldo joined Real Madrid for a world record fee of £80 million in the summer of 2009 as Los Blancos looked to create a team capable of defeating Messi and Barcelona.
Despite Ronaldo scoring regularly for Real, when it comes to winning awards and titles, Messi has usually came out on top, adding another Champions League medal to his collection in 2011 and also being named as the Ballon d'Or winner in the last three years (2010, 2011, 2012).
In 2012, Messi surpassed Gerd Muller's record of 67 goals in one season as the Barcelona talisman scored an unprecedented 73 goals in all competitions. Thanks in no small part to the goalscoring exploits of their Argentine superstar, Barcelona look on course to retain the league title this season and will face Bayern Munich in the Champions League semi-final for a place at Wembley.
Messi's stats and records tell you everything you need to know about this fantastic player. What many feel Messi still hasn't done is produce on the world stage with his country, however with the World Cup approaching, Messi has a chance to lead Argentina to victory as captain and perhaps cement himself as the greatest player of all time.
The Barcelona magician has scored 310 goals in 375 appearances for the Catalan club, add to this the forward has also scored 32 times for his country and also earning 79 caps so far in his career for the blue and white of Argentina.
With all these achievements, it's hard to believe that Messi is still just 25-years-old. Messi has also become part of one of the best teams of all time alongside Spanish stars Xavi, Andres Iniesta and David Villa.
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