How time flies. It seems only yesterday that a scruffy teenager emerged from the Barcelona youth ranks intent on taking the world by storm. Now, 424 goals and four Ballon d'Ors later, the Catalan club are preparing to welcome Leo Messi into their prestigious 500 club.
The 28-year-old is expected to play in Wednesday night's game against Real Betis in what will be his 500th appearance for Barcelona, becoming just the sixth player in the club's illustrious history to reach the milestone.
Xavi, Carles Puyol, Andres Iniesta, Migueli and Victor Valdes are the players he will be joining, but, of course, reaching 500 appearances is merely a blip on the radar when compared to the other Nou Camp records he has broken.
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Indeed, he is already their all-time top goalscorer with 424 goals – 189 more than second-placed Cesar. He has also scored more goals than any other player, including Cristiano Ronaldo. in El Clasico fixtures – 21 goals in 31 appearances.
Needless to say, Messi could retire tomorrow safe in the knowledge that he will be remembered as one of, if not the greatest player in football history. To celebrate his latest achievement, we've picked his best five performances in a Barcelona shirt.
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Barcelona 3-3 Real Madrid - 10 March 2007
Three times Real Madrid were leading their most loathed rivals at the Nou Camp and three times they were drawn back by a 19-year-old Messi.
Oleguer Presas's sending off just before half-time had given Real Madrid every chance of leaving Catalonia with an unlikely three points, but Messi had other ideas, scoring a sublime hat-trick, including a wonderful strike in the 90th minute to make it 3-3. It was a performance that saw Messi elevated to one of the world's best players.
Barcelona 5-2 Getafe - 18 April 2007
It is hard to believe that it was less than a month after that stunning performance against Los Blancos that Messi scored arguably the greatest of his 424 goals. Bearing a striking resemblance to Diego Maradona's famous goal against England in 1986, Messi picked up the ball in his own half before dribbling past almost every opposing player, including the goalkeeper, before tapping in. It was one of three goals he scored in the Copa del Rey semi-final that night.
Barcelona 4-1 Arsenal - 6 April 2010
When Nicklas Bendtner scored a clumsy goal to make this game 1-0 and 3-2 on aggregate, Arsenal fans were dreaming of a huge Champions League upset, but then Messi happened.
In a dominating performance that would see the travelling Arsenal fans give the Argentinian a standing ovation, Messi scored all four goals against the Gunners, including a rather spectacular strike from outside the box to make it 1-1.
"He's like a PlayStation. I think he can take advantage of every mistake you make," Arsene Wenger said after the game.
Real Madrid 3-4 Barcelona - 23 March 2014
Not only did Messi's hat-trick at the Bernabeu seal a crucial victory for Barcelona in the Liga title race, it also saw him become the all-time scorer in the Clasico fixture, surpassing the great Alfredo Di Stefano.
Admittedly, two of the goals came from the penalty spot, but how many of you could keep your cool from the spot with the sound of a baying Bernabeu crowd surrounding you, and then do it all over again? That's right, none of you.
Barcelona 3-0 Bayern Munich - 6 May 2015
Having set tremendously high standards for himself, Messi's 2014/15 campaign was rather disappointing up until the Champions League semi-final. Struggling for both form and fitness and having lost the Ballon d'Or to Cristiano Ronaldo, Messi needed to prove he was still the best in the world by performing on the biggest stage.
His two goals against Pep Guardiola's men did the business with his second – a stunning chip over Manuel Neuer – widely considered to be one of his best goals ever.
Have we missed out your favourite Leo Messi performance?
Let us know in the comment box below!
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