Happy Birthday, Lionel Messi: 10 greatest moments of the Argentine superstar's career

As the record 8-time Ballon d'Or winner turns 37 today, we look back at the most memorable moments (among too many) of the Argentine's legendary career.
Last Updated : 24 June 2024, 14:16 IST

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"Here’s Messi, away from 2, 3, 4.. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful! How good is he! A mere supernatural goal from Lionel Messi! He has wriggled and tiptoed his way to the gates of Wembley Stadium. He is just brilliant. Best player in the world bar none." - Peter Drury's animated voice as he tries to make sense of Lionel Messi's wondrous solo goal against Real Madrid in 2010-11's UEFA Champions League semifinal second leg at the Santiago Bernabeu, still reverberates in the ears of countless football enthusiasts across the world.

From spearheading Pep Guardiola's iconic Barcelona side to winning the FIFA World Cup with Argentina, the little magician has done it all in the game of football. As the record 8-time Ballon d'Or winner turns 37 today, we look back at the most memorable moments (among too many) of the Argentine's legendary career:

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Making a mark with a hat-trick

A young Messi announced his arrival on the big stage when he scored a stunning hat-trick against Barcelona's fiercest rivals Real Madrid on March 10, 2007. A 19-year-old Messi lit up the El Clasico, as he helped Barcelona salvage a 3-3 draw against Madrid in an exhilarating contest.

The art of sculpting a goal

Messi has made a career out of scoring mesmerizing and jaw-dropping goals, which sometimes defied the normal conventions of possibilities. Perhaps the one that stands out the most is the one against Getafe in the first leg of the 2007 Copa del Rey semi-final.

Messi's 60-yard run dribbling and dazzling past defenders with effortless finesse before finally rounding the keeper to guide the ball into the net, is a sight that will remain etched in the memory of football fans forever.

The Olympic triumph

Messi's first major trophy with the Argentinian national team came at the 2008 Olympic games in Beijing, China. Messi, along with fellow youngsters Sergio Aguero and Angel Di Maria were instrumental in guiding Argentina to clinch the Olympic gold medal - winning every match on their way to glory.

The start of an era

Despite being part of Barcelona's Champions League winning squad in 2006, a young Messi didn't have much role to play in an already star-studded line up. However, in 2009, Messi transformed into Barcelona's talisman - helping the team bag their second Champions League in 4 years. He finished the 2008-09 UCL campaign as the tournament's highest goal scorer, while also netting a goal in the final against Manchester United.

Ballon d'Messi

As they say, the first is always extra-special. The first among the 8 Ballon d'Ors won by Leo Messi was in 2009. The year saw Barcelona winning the historic treble - the La Liga, the Copa del Rey, and the Champions League, thanks to a spectacular season from their star-boy. The sight of Messi holding the golden ball was a befitting sign of things to come in the following years.

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Change of the old 'Gerd'

The year 2012 was nothing short of a miracle in the world of football - a 25-year-old Messi was perhaps at the peak of his physical prowess, and he made it a point to showcase his greatness in almost every match he played that year. He scored an astonishing 91 goals in 69 matches for club and country, breaking the German great Gerd Muller's record of 85 goals in a calendar year (1972), that seemed pretty much unbreakable at any given point in time (perhaps rightfully so).

Wrong-footing Boateng

Messi's incredible footballing intelligence and out-of-this-world dribbling skills were on full display yet again at the grandest stage, during 2015's Champions League semifinal against Bayern Munich. Messi's superhuman body feint left Munich defender Jerome Boateng bamboozled, as the nonchalant Argentinian lobbed the ball over goalkeeper Manuel Neuer's head for a sublime finish. Undoubtedly, one of Messi's finest Champions League goals of all time.

Shirts off!

April 23, 2017's El Clasico will be remembered by fans for not just a classic game of football, but even more so, for Messi's iconic shirt celebration during the closing stages of the match. As the game headed towards a stalemate with the score tied at 2-2, Messi scored the winning goal in the 92nd minute, which also marked his 500th career goal for Barcelona.

However, what followed next would become even more iconic - he ran towards the spectators, removed his jersey, and held it up with his hands - a picture-perfect moment in every sense of the term.

Conquering Copa

After two heartbreaking final defeats in preceding seasons, Argentina finally won the Copa America in 2021, riding on the back of the little magician. Despite his humongous success in club football, Messi often faced flak for not being able to replicate the same level of heroics with his national side. Putting the demons of the past aside, Messi silenced his critics in the only way he knows.

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The wait is over

And last but not the least, who can forget that hisctoric night in Qatar, when Messi kissed the ever-elusive FIFA World Cup trophy? On December 18, 2022, Messi rounded up a stellar performance in the FIFA World Cup with 2 goals in the final against France, guiding Argentina to win the World Cup for the first time since 1986.

His World Cup triumph was the perfect and most befitting culmination to his incredible legacy, which, no doubt, will continue to inspire millions for generations to come.

Published 24 June 2024, 14:16 IST

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