BARCELONA – Lionel Messi followed Paris Saint-Germain’s comeback against Angers on Friday from the Parc des Princes grandstand. His participation in the two matches in Argentina during the week in the qualifying phase for the World Cup in Qatar led Mauricio Pochettino to leave him out of the call for the French team and the Argentine star rested on a day especially marked in terms of his sports career . 17 years ago Frank Rijkaard called him up for the first time for an official Barcelona first team match.
And this Saturday marks the 17th anniversary of Leo’s official premiere with the Barça shirt. He had played two friendly matches against FC Porto, in which it meant his debut and Marseille, six days before he had completed his seventh league game with the subsidiary under Pere Gratacós (defeat 3-4 against Huesca), and the coach Dutch recruited him along with his teammates Carlos Peña, Damià Abella and Cristian Hidalgo.
A fifth squad player, especially followed in those days, was left off the list, the forward Oriol Riera because he had been expelled in the previous match of the subsidiary and had to serve a sanction. And of all, Messi was the only one who had minutes that night of October 16 against Espanyol.
On Sunday, Barça will host Valencia in the Camp Nou in the first game with no audience restrictions in the stands and Messi will not be in charge of the team. One of his favorite rivals (he scored 31 goals in 36 matches) should not be attentive to the magic of a footballer who has played a total of 836 games since October 16, 2004 (including friendlies) with the Barça shirt, which he scored. 709 goals and raised up to 41 trophies with the club.
A Messi who in 2005 won the Golden Boy Trophy for the best footballer in European football under 21 years of age, succeeding Wayne Rooney and who from then on rose to prominence, first as one of the best active players, and later, entering the legend as number one in history.
Leo lives in exile today, golden but unexpected and unwanted two months ago, in Paris. The best player who ever wore the Barça shirt has already got used to his new reality at PSG, and at the Camp Nou the duel over that unsuspected divorce is getting better day by day …
Of the four youth players recruited on October 16, 2004 by Frank Rijkaard, he was the only one who fulfilled the dream of succeeding in the club of his life. Others like Rubén, Verdú, Oriol Riera, Rodri, Javito, Jordi Gómez, Orlandi or Expósito enjoyed the opportunity to play a game with the first team but had to make a career away from the Camp Nou. As is the same thing that happened with his three companions summoned for the Montjuic derby.
Cristian Hidalgo, winger, limited his record to one minute during a Cup match against Zamora in the 2005-06 season and after a career that took him through a multitude of teams, also from Cyprus, Bulgaria, Israel or India, the last season in the ranks of the Gramenet. Carlos Peña, left back, also retired last season in Goa in India. He never made his official debut with Barça and spent his career between Albacete, Valladolid, Oviedo or Getafe before leaving for India. Damià Abella, a forward converted to a right-back, is today a television commentator after retiring at the English Middlesbrough in 2017. A debut in San Mamés, against Athletic Bilbao on October 30 of that year, he played ten games in the first team of Barça until 2006, when he left for Racing Santander, following his career with Betis and Osasuna before leaving for England.
Messi, the only debutant in the derby against Espanyol, was also the only one of that generation of Barcelona B who settled, and in what way, in the first Barça team. The story is well known, explained and documented and every October 16 it returns to the forefront of Barça news … Although this is the first anniversary of the anniversary that no longer has the Argentine star as a Barça footballer.
His surprising departure, announced on August 5 by the club in a brief statement, closed a two-decade relationship, which had begun on December 14, 2000, the day that Carles Rexach signed his contract on a napkin, Leo being barely a 13-year-old boy who couldn’t even imagine the future that lay ahead.