LIONEL MESSI, now bearded and always seen with a captain’s armband strapped around his bicep, is possibly the most familiar sight in football.
But if we cast our minds all the way back to November 2003, that was far from being the case.
Fresh-faced Messi was just 16 when he was first given an opportunity to shine at Barcelona
A fresh-faced 16-year-old, Messi was playing for Barca’s C team and a lifetime away from the enormous transfer saga which has erupted this summer.
But when the Spanish giants sent a squad to Portugal to face Porto in a mid-season friendly to open the brand new Estadio Dragao – built for Euro 2004 – Messi was handed a fleeting opportunity to shine.
Messi was given 15 minutes at the end, and the diminutive 5ft 7in attacker managed to create two chances.
He went on to break into the Barcelona B side that season, before making nine first-team appearances the following year.
His prominence grew and he transformed into the six-time Ballon d’Or winning superstar we know today.
But what happened to the other players that were thrown together to play for Barca in that fairly innocuous friendly?
Here SunSport akes a look.
Perennial understudy to Victor Valdes, Jorguera made 24 appearances across over a decade at the Nou Camp.
He left in 2009 after being further marginalised by the 2008 arrival of Jose Pinto – enjoying a year in the second tier with nearby Girona before hanging up his boots aged just 31 in 2010.
Jorquera went on to work in his family’s jewellery business – having studied for a gemology degree while playing understudy to Valdes.
Another academy graduate, the right-back had made two appearances at the back end of the previous campaign.
More first-team matches were hard to come by, however, and he finished his Barcelona career having featured only 13 times.
Injury-hit spells at Lazio, Real Betis, Numancia and Gimnastic failed to ignite things – and he ended up finishing his career in Holland with Go Ahead Eagles in 2012 at just 32.
Oscar Lopez made fleeting appearances for BarcelonaCredit: News Group Newspapers Ltd
Oleguer is another La Masia graduate that retired in his early thirties – but he made far more of an impact on and off the pitch.
Making 175 appearances for Barca’s first-team between 2002 and 2008 – he even started the 2006 Champions League final against Arsenal.
More politically engaged than the average footballer, he has become known for his pro-independence Catalonian beliefs – and has written a number of articles to that end.
Oleguer started Barca’s 2006 Champions League final triumph over ArsenalCredit: AP:Associated Press
Mexican Rafa Marquez must have felt out of place in this XI as he was actually a first-team regular that season.
The commanding defender made 242 appearances for Barcelona as well as earning 147 caps for his country across a long, distinguished career in football.
He left Barca in 2010 but that didn’t mean that his time in the spotlight was over.
Marquez appeared in the music video for former team-mate Gerard Pique’s future wife Shakira’s hit song Waka Waka that summer ahead of the World Cup in South Africa.
But that wasn’t to be his last World Cup, as he was still playing for Mexico at the 2018 edition in Russia aged 39 despite having been blacklisted by the US for allegedly providing a front for a drugs cartel.
Rafa Marquez was a regular in the Barca backlineCredit: Times Newspapers Ltd
Left-back Navarro was a regular for Barcelona’s B squad at this point – but he managed to carve out a very respectable career for himself.
He went on to manage 35 appearances for the first-team while competing with the likes of Giovanni van Bronckhorst and Sylvinho.
Navarro eventually left Barca for Mallorca, before becoming a regular at Sevilla in a seven-year spell.
His form even earned him a place in Spain’s victorious Euro 2008 squad – appearing in their group stage triumph over Greece.
He retired in 2018 after an unsuccessful stint at Deportivo La Coruna.
Fernando Navarro went on to finish his career with Deportivo La Coruna in 2018Credit: Reuters
Possibly the most obscure name on this retro teamsheet, Ramon Ros, like Messi, was a regular in Barca’s C team that season.
The defensive midfielder did manage to break through two years later, making a cameo appearance against Sevilla in which he replaced Oscar Lopez.
But that was to be his only Barcelona appearance and after a loan spell at Numancia – he moved down a division to Lleida in the second tier.
Sadly he had to retire aged just 26 two years later after succumbing to a number of injuries.
Ramon Ros tussled with Michael Owen in LaLiga for Numancia before having to retire aged 26Credit: AP:Associated Press
Now it’s fair to say that this guy was quite successful, too.
The midfield metronome won 32 trophies for club and country throughout a distinguished career in which he became widely heralded as one of the greatest players of all time.
He left Barca in 2015 to play for Qatari side Al-Sadd, who he now manages – although he recently talked up a return to the Nou Camp as manager.
Xavi had already been in the Barcelona first-team for a number of years before Messi came alongCredit: Getty Images – Getty
Now this list comes crashing back down to Earth with the entry of attacking midfielder, Sergio Santamaria.
While the Malaga native did at least get to enjoy the privilege of fleeting appearances in Barcelona’s first-team – he failed to live up to the promise that saw him scoop the prestigious Golden Ball award at the 1997 Under-17 World Cup.
He went on to play for Albacete, Saint Andreu and Logrones, among others, and retired aged just 31 after seeing injuries blight his senior career.
A Catalan born and bred, Gabri was a useful figure at Barcelona in the early 2000s, acting as a handy utility man between 1999 and 2006.
Predominantly a midfielder, he also did a job on the flanks on numerous occasions – as well as filling in at full-back.
His efforts earned him three Spain caps and a place in their Euro 2004 squad.
Since retiring in 2014, Gabri has become a coach, working at La Masia with the Barcelona academy for three years.
He has since become a manager in his own right, leading Swiss side Sion – and most recently FC Andorra.
Gabri was a useful utility man for BarcelonaCredit: News Group Newspapers Ltd
Enrique must have felt like a man among boys in this side. At 33 he was in the final year of his celebrated career when he took to the field in Oporto.
The 62-cap Spain international, who has since gone on to manage his country, played upfront, on the wings, in midfield and even once at centre-back against FC Puchov in the Uefa Cup that year.
Enrique waved goodbye to the Nou Camp at the end of that season after 301 appearances, but was to return a decade later to manage the club with distinction – winning the Champions League with a Messi-inspired team in 2015.
He is now manager of the Spanish national team once again.
Luis Enrique went on to win the Champions League for Barcelona as a coach in 2015Credit: Getty Images – Getty
More well-known in England for his popular spell at Liverpool, Garcia actually struggled to make an impact while at boyhood club Barca.
Garcia had just returned to the Nou Camp a few months before this match having initially been sold to Atletico Madrid in 2002.
And while he managed seven goals and nine assists in his sole season in the Barca first-team – he could never achieve the popularity he was to gain at Anfield.
He joined Liverpool for £6million the following summer, becoming a hero in the Reds’ subsequent run to their fifth European Cup in his first season.
Luis Garcia felt much more love from the Kop than BarcelonaCredit: PA:Press Association
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