From battling a growth hormone deficiency at an early age to establishing himself as arguably the best player not only of his generation but in the history of football, Lionel Messi has come a long way.

FC Barcelona was aware of the talent they had on their hands ever since Messi arrived from Rosario, Argentina, to Spain to appear for trials at the age of 13 during the summer of 2000.

Floored by his talent, Barcelona’s technical director Charles Rexach was so convinced that they offered the prodigy his first contract on a paper napkin when other clubs among the likes of Real Madrid were chasing his signature. According to a report by The Guardian, the club even agreed to pay a £40,000 annual salary for Messi’s father Jorge and a £1,000 a month to support the child’s hormone growth treatment.

The rest, as they say, is history. With five Ballon d’Ors, ten La Liga titles, four Champions Leagues, six Copa del Reys and 627 goals for the club, Messi has gone on to establish himself as a cult figure at the Nou Camp.

Many of his fans have been used to his silky skills, mesmerising dribbling and his effortless ability to dance his way past defenders by watching him play over the years, but Messi has been doing these things even before he announced himself on the world stage.

Clips from his days in the Spanish third division show just how good Messi was. A class above his peers, he managed to easily beat his defenders and pick out teammates with his sublime vision.

Here are a few highlights of a young Messi playing in the Segunda Division 3: