On 1 February 2009, a certain Leo Messi converted a penalty to secure a 2-1 win at Racing Santander. It was no ordinary goal. It was Barça’s 5,000th goal in the history of La liga.
And curiously enough, the goal was scored in the very same place that another player with a deadly left foot, Manuel Parera, had scored Barça’s very first league goal way back on 12 February 1929. Well, not exactly, because the new El Sardinero stadium is located on a site just beside the old Racing ground. But that is just a minor detail compared to the worlds apart in which Parera and Messi played their football.
Parera, one of Barça’s finest players of his era, earned just 300 pesetas a month from football. Rather than a wage, it was more a token gesture to cover expenses and losses, and between games he worked as an electrician, and fitted football around his two other loves, the cinema and dancing the sardana.
“He was totally left-footed” remembered his son many years later. “His right leg was only there to stop him from falling over!”
Parera didn’t just score Barça’s first ever league goal, he scored all three. Playing in rainy, muddy conditions in Santander, with star player Josep Samitier forced to play at centre back to cover for absentees, he scored both Barça’s goals in their opening day win. A week later, he also scored the opener in Barça’s first home league fixture (at Les Corts in those days), against Real Madrid.
Barça eventually lost the first Liga Clásico, but would go on to become the first ever Liga champions. The bonus for doing so was 2,000 pesetas (hardly a fortune) and a new watch. It's fair to say that Messi has been rewarded somewhat more handsomely for his endeavours.