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Leo Messi is leaving FC Barcelona. Despite club and player reaching an agreement and the clear intention of both parties to sign a new contract, this could happen because of the Spanish LaLiga regulations on player registration.
The events therefore bring an end to the Argentinian’s 17 seasons in the FC Barcelona first team, in which he has played a key role in winning no fewer than 35 major titles, the most that any player has ever won at the club, as well as setting an incalculable number of individual records.
Some of these records were broken some time ago. Others have taken longer. It wasn't until last season that Leo Messi surpassed Xavi Hernández as the player who has played for Barça the most times. He also equalled Sergio Ramos as the footballer with the most Clásicos played in history, and he broke Pelé's record for all-time top scorer with the same club.
17 years in the first team
Messi has achieved all these records in the 17 years he has been playing in the first team. Since making his official debut on 16 October 2004 in a league match against Espanyol, the Argentine star has been beating records that seemed completely impossible.
His over a decade and a half in blaugrana have been crammed with memorable moments. It's impossible to list them all. The starting point was his first ever goal - assisted by Ronaldinho - against Albacete on 1 May 2005. The last came in the 2020/21 Copa del Rey final victory against Athletic Club.
But although team achievements have always been most important to the player, he has also collected no end of silverware for his individual endeavours, including an astonishing six Golden Shoes, and he has been top scorer in La Liga eight times, both obviously records.
In between, however, we have experienced countless other moments to remember. Champions League and Copa del Rey finals, the two trebles won in the 2008/09 and 2014/15 seasons, and unforgettable Clásicos such as the 6-2 and 4-0 wins at the Bernabéu and a 5-0 victory at Camp Nou.
All 35 titles in the Messi era have had his name written large across them. That's because he has ALWAYS appeared in one way or another, whether that be to score, assist or make a difference. Who doesn't remember his goals against Real Madrid at the Bernabéu? Or the Copa del Rey finals against Athletic Club? And in Champions League finals too?
He has even made history in less glorious moments, such as that 'Maradona' goal against Getafe that ultimately didn't help Barça qualify for the Copa del Rey final... but which the club’s supporters still voted the best goal in Barça history.
Speaking of Maradona, not so long ago Messi gave a wonderful tribute to the Argentine legend following his death on November 25. He dedicated his first goal after that tragic loss to his beloved compatriot, removing his Barça shirt to reveal a Newell's Old Boys shirt with the number 10 on the back. Newell's were, of course, the same team where Messi began his career as a youngster before traveling to Barcelona in 2000. Even details like this mark Messi out as the best.
He is a player that Barça will sorely miss. Maybe more than anyone else that ever played for club. And maybe more than any that will do ever again.
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