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FC Barcelona's second Champions League fixture this season takes them a place that will forever be associated to the name of someone regarded by so many as the greatest footballer ever to grace the game. For the Estádio Do Dragão is the very place where he played his first game for the senior side.
The date was 16 November 2003, almost exactly two decades ago, and the Catalans were the guests of honour in a friendly match to inaugurate the new 50,000 capacity replacement for the old Estádio das Antas. Porto won that game 2-0, and when the fans went home that night, they would have little to no idea that they had just witnessed history being made.
With 15 minutes of the game to go, the visiting coach Frank Rijkaard told a promising teenager that he'd included in his squad to start warming up. His name was Leo Messi, and the Dutchman had decided he'd like to see what he could do. "I was very nervous" said the player later that day. "But I really fancied going out to play for a bit."
Messi replaced the defender Fernando Navarro, and wore the number 14 shirt for no other reason than it was the handiest one available. And he had only been on the pitch for a few minutes before goalkeeper Nuno denied him a goal, and shortly after he won the ball in a position from which he could well have scored but rather than shoot he opted for a pass that nobody was able to follow through on.
A quarter of an hour was too little time for the Argentinian to have much of an impact, but nevertheless there were already signs that this player was something very special. But just quite how special, nobody could have possibly imagined. He was not just going to be a great player. This was a player of a greatness comparable to Pele, Cruyff and Maradona. Indeed, many would say he was even greater. The GOAT.
And it all began that night 20 years ago in Porto. The same place FC Barcelona will be returning this Wednesday at 9pm CEST.