17 Years Ago Today, Lionel Messi Signed His First Professional Contract With Barcelona

Barcelona opened up an important chapter in their history books after Lionel Messi signed his first professional contract 17 years ago today.

It's safe to say that the rest is now history.

The 31-year-old Argentine magician has become the crux of Barcelona's success for more than a decade.

Whether it was playing under former Barcelona managers Frank Rijkaard, Pep Guardiola, Tito Vilanova, Gerardo Martino and Luis Enrique or current boss Ernesto Valverde, Messi has continued to adapt into the complete forward.

Yes, he was deadly when Barça used him as a 'false nine' and has continued to be a threat even when he has played out on the right wing.

Despite all of the different managers that he has had, Messi revealed in 2016 that Rijkaard was the most important coach in his career.

Credit: PA
Credit: PA

"All the coaches I had at first left me things, but I think the most important thing in my career was Rijkaard," he said (via ESPN).

"If he had not decided to get me in the first team to train and play, perhaps I had never reached the first team.

"I always said [Rijkaard] was, for me, a very important person because he trusted me.

"He made me play in the first team."

Messi has secured a joint-record five Ballon d'Ors during his prolific playing career -- holding the record alongside rival Cristiano Ronaldo -- and has won 32 trophies with the Spanish club.

Credit: PA
Credit: PA

That's right, the Barcelona talisman has won La Liga nine times, six Copa del Reys, seven Supercopa de Españas, four Champions Leagues, three Super Cups and three Club World Cups.

Considering the progress that Valverde's men have made in La Liga, the Champions League and the Copa del Rey, there's no denying that Messi will want his side to win even more trophies this season.

When it comes to individual honours, the five-time Ballon d'Or winner has secured five European Golden Shoes and is gunning for his sixth this season.

Credit: PA
Credit: PA

While the Barcelona captain has not had the same trophy-laden success for his country, he has played his part in taking Argentina to the finals of the World Cup in 2014 and the Copa América in 2007, 2015 and 2016.

Oh, let's not forget the time that Messi scored 91 times in 2012 for both club and country, shattering the 85 that Gerd Müller reached for Bayern Munich and Germany in 1972.

At the age of 31, there's no doubt that Messi will produce even more magical moments before he calls it time on his career.

Will Messi win a record sixth Ballon d'Or in 2019?

Let us know in the comments.

Adnan Riaz

Adnan Riaz is a journalist for SPORTbible. He studied for a B.A. in History at the University of York and followed it up with an M.A. in Multimedia Journalism at MMU. Before he started writing about sports, he spent over four years in the gaming press. He has worked for several publications, including Hardcore Gamer, LADbible and the Manchester Evening News. Follow him on Twitter to find out what he is working on next. Got a story tip for Adnan? Email him: [email protected]

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