First came a chipped pass that had class written over it – which was not a surprise, because the world had come to expect it from the boots of the Brazilian magician.
Then came a chipped finish that beat the opposition goalkeeper – it was a moment many were waiting for, because they had heard all about the magic that one can expect in the years to come from the boots of the Argentinian soon-to-be magician.
On May 1, 2005 two South American legends combined to produce a moment of class. It was Ronaldinho who provided the assist to a young academy graduate of Barcelona: a certain Lionel Messi.
In the years since, he has gone on to add more than 600 goals for Spanish club.
Ronaldinho, who arguably the greatest player of that time, was a Barcelona player between 2003-2008. And Messi’s first appearance for the senior team came in the 2004-’05 season. While he made his debut in 2004, the first goal took some time to come.
The two superstars went formed a scintillating partnership at Camp Nou until Ronaldinho departed for AC Milan.
“When I arrived at Barcelona, there was already talk of a kid who stood out,” Ronaldinho had said.
Coached by Frank Rijkaard, Barcelona were winning 1-0 against Albacete on that May evening. It was then the Dutch coach decided to field a 17-year old Messi, wearing jersey No 30 back then. He would replace Cameroon forward Samuel Eto’o in the 87th minute.
All it took was two minutes for the crowd to erupt, but it was a moment of shortlived joy. Messi received a pass from Ronaldinho and chipped one over Raul Valbuena. However, it was ruled out for offside.
But it was an omen. A good one for Barcelona fans. They will have their moment.
In the 91st minute, the Argentinian fought for the ball with the defenders and then received another delightful pass from the Brazilian; this time his lob over Valbuena would stand; both in the eyes of the referees and in the minds of sports fans around the world. It earned him his first senior goal.
“My favourite [goal] is my first in La Liga,” he is quoted as saying by the Guardian back in 2010. “At the time, I had something to prove and I wanted to say thanks to the coach and to Barcelona. But that might change if I score in the World Cup final one day.”
The fact that Messi moved to Barcelona because they were the only club who offered to pay for his hormone treatment is now part of footballing folklore and that was the starting point of a sensational journey. But the moment he put the ball back in the net on May 1, 2015 is the first milestone in a career filled with those.
For a team that prides itself on the motto “Mes que un club” (more than a club), this was more than just a goal.
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