Lionel Messi: “I’m very proud to have won it three times, especially one after the other. It’s hard to win one, let alone three. I’m very happy and this award gives me as much pleasure as the first.”
Pep Guardiola: “Is Messi at the same level as Pele, Cruyff, Maradona? He’s up there with them, now it will depend on him if he stays there.”
Sir Alex Ferguson: “Is Messi the best player in history? Can’t compare generations. Pele, Maradona, Cruyff… have all been great. Messi is one of them.”
Besides the funky velvet suit on show in Zurich on Monday night, it was another sparkling evening for Lionel Messi who expectedly won the the Ballon d’Or for the third consecutive year.
Of course there will be those that bemoan his lack of success with Argentina as well as the fact the likes of Xavi and Andres Iniesta are hugely unlucky not to be recognised for their genius during this golden spell at Barcelona.
But, there is little doubt Messi is already up there with the true greats of the game in Pele and Diego Maradona. Yes, a World Cup medal is probably needed but if “The Flea” stopped playing football tomorrow, his accomplishments in European club football would surely be enough.
What sets him apart from Pele and Maradona, and will surely be a feature of all the great footballers to come is that there is video footage of his early years. Earlier this week Spanish newspaper Sport highlighted video of Messi at age 10 and this seemed a good way to mark the award of his third Ballon d’Or.
Some of the clips below have been featured on this site already and many have been on YouTube for some time. (If you think we missed any out that are available from before Messi’s Barcelona debut, do get in touch in the comments below.)
It does though mark a fascinating course of a wonderful career with plenty of goal clips and highlight reels to come.
Lionel Messi at 5 years old. The earliest known footage of LM10 sees him in a red and white strip, dancing round his peers on a cabbage patch of a pitch in 1993. Even then defenders were trailing in his wake.
Lionel Messi at 10 years old. Playing in Peru, for a Santa Fe side in a representative competition, Messi toys with his opponents showing ridiculous touch, pace, skill and control as well as the unselfish nature that characterises his game today.
Lionel Messi at 12 & 13 years old. By now in the Barcelona youth team, alongside Cesc Fabregas and Gerard Pique, the now familiar style continues as Messi scores yet more goals past disbelieving keepers and defenders.
Lionel Messi at 14. Some quality finishes on this video, including a not so rare header. On the evidence of these videos, it is a wonder it took until the age of 16 for Messi to make his debut for Barcelona aged 16 in a friendly at Porto.