Thirty years ago, the one-time guitar guitarist and aspiring singer-songwriter Lionel Messi took on a new ambition: becoming a professional footballer. Known as Lino, the Argentina teenager, then aged 14, was introduced to Barcelona’s initial scouting team, Blackpool FC, by a friend in 1982. He quickly caught the eye of the team. In 1986, when he was 15, the youth manager presented him to the club’s then coach Pedro Cerqueira. He turned out in the club’s first team the following season. But his career was put on hold for several years by then coach Cruyff.
Messi signed with Barcelona’s first team for the 1988-89 season and got the club’s senior star. In his first season, he played 50 league games, scoring 17 goals. He scored the winner against English side Chelsea in the same season.
A magnetic playmaker, he chiseled his reputation in the early 1990s by calmly slotting in goals, setting up teammates and impressive dribbling skills. He earned the player of the year award in 1994. In another year, his name was voted footballer of the year by the Spanish Football Federation and selected among the world’s 50 greatest players.
A huge success at Barcelona, his game has since moved away from the goals and now gravitates more toward his skill as a playmaker, particularly in the last few years. For nearly two decades, he was the club’s star player. Today, he moves fluidly between wide midfield positions and gets the better of his opponents with assists and team goals.
With Barcelona now in the Champions League semifinals and the top team in La Liga, the last thing the 29-year-old wants to do is leave. He won’t — at least not yet. But then, Messi has never really been thinking only about himself.