Lionel Messi's career in photos

Messi (middle) plays with his brothers at his home in Buenos Aires
Born in Rosario, Santa Fe on 24 June 1987, Messi (middle) plays with his brothers at his Argentine home
Messi in Argentina in 1994
From this 1994 photo, it is clear Messi (back row, second from right) is much smaller than his team-mates. He joins Newell's Old Boys a year later but they cannot afford to pay for treatment for a diagnosed growth hormone deficiency
Messi trains at La Masia with team-mate Deco
But Barcelona are willing to help out, so in 2000 the 13-year-old crosses the Atlantic to join the famous La Masia Academy, and makes his first-team debut as a 16-year-old in a friendly against Porto
Messi scores his first goal for Barcelona against Albacete
At 17, Messi scores his first goal in May 2005 against Albacete, and is soon terrorising defences under the tutelage of Brazilian team-mate Ronaldinho
Messi scores a memorable goal against Getafe in 2007
One of many memorable goals in a Barcelona shirt includes a mazy dribble against Getafe in 2007, which is likened to Diego Maradona's famous goal against England in the 1986 World Cup
Barcelona and Argentina playmaker Lionel Messi
Messi is injured for Barcelona's 2006 Champions League triumph against Arsenal, but scores a header to cap a superb performance in the 2009 final win over Manchester United in Rome
Messi scored in the 3-1 win over Manchester United at Wembley
And in the 2011 final at Wembley, he once again proves his class with a stunning strike as Barcelona again beat Manchester United by two goals in a 3-1 victory
Messi poses with La Liga trophy
To cap a fine 2010-11 season, Messi helps his team to their third La Liga trophy on the trot and his fifth. In domestic and European games in 2011, the Argentine has scored 43 goals in 47 appearances
Messi with Diego Maradona
Despite his many club achievements, the 24-year-old is still hampered by a lack of success at the World Cup. And, with his manager at the last tournament, Diego Maradona, having won the global prize as a player in 1986, the debate on the greatest footballer ever will continue
Messi receives his award from Michel Platini and Ronaldo
But with his third Ballon d'Or award to join the likes of Johan Cruyff, Marco van Basten and Michel Platini (also pictured), Messi can claim to be one of the best ever and perhaps the best of his generation
Messi scores his team's third goal (and his hat-trick strike) against Bayer Leverkusen
Messi strengthens his case further when he becomes the first player to score five goals in a Champions League match as his team crush Bayer Leverkusen 7-1 (10-2 on aggregate) in the last 16 of the 2011-12 tournament
Lionel Messi
Magnanimous following his latest record-breaking feat, Messi again praises his Barcelona team-mates for their support and insists the progress of the club is more important than any personal milestone