It was 18 April 2007. The scene was a Copa del Ray semi-final against Getafe. Then a fresh-faced teenager, Lionel Messi picks the ball up from behind the half-way line. Side-stepping, darting, he left two Gefate players completely dumbfounded before elegantly surging through with searing pace through the opposition's half. It was all clockwork, as if he had been finetuned beforehand to execute what his mind had planned. The Gefate defensive wall forward was no obstacle; he skinned all with relative ease, rounded the stranded goalkeeper Garcia and calmly slotted the ball back into the net.
The execution for that goal involved a similar precision, or perhaps an even greater one, than that of the game of darts. Arguably, that was the goal that led to him being proclaimed as Maradona's successor - Maradona scored a carbon-copy of Messi's goal at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico - with various sections of the Spanish press labelling Messi as "Messidonna".
But more importantly, that was one of the earliest and enduring memories of the man born in Rosario, Argentina, who would go on to become the finest footballer of his generation, and one of the undisputed best in the history of the game.
It was a mere two years later that he would win his first Ballon d'Or, the footballing equivalent of the Oscars. Surely, for all that outrageous talent that his dazzling feet has to offer, no one would envision that he would win the subsequent three Ballon d'Ors, in 2010, 2011, and 2012, hence making him the only player since the beginning of mankind to win four Ballon d'Ors, let alone consecutively.
Messi lives and breathes football. The joy it brings to his face scoring in a street football game or in a Champions League final is still the same: pure. It is impossible to imagine modern football without the man, who evokes adrenaline, passion and emotion in millions of sporting fans worldwide sat by their sofas.
There are many statistics about him, many age-old records he has consigned to the history books. Barcelona's all-time top goalscorer at just a mere age of 24. 91 goals in 69 games in 2012, beating Gerd Mueller's record of 85 by a clear mile. Football commentators, pundits and journalists are running low on superlatives to describe him, as there isn't simply anymore. But cut away the statistics and the records; they are now irrelevant, and have been irrelevant for some time now. He will continue to break his own records. He will continue to defy the odds.
Instead, appreciate the golden moments that Lionel Messi has showered on the footballing world. Fans today are privileged to witness Messi right from the beginning of his career to his pomp. He is a gift that keeps giving, a talent like no other.
Think of those moments that he's left an everlasting impact on. That goal against Getafe. That moment where he puts Barcelona back in pole position to win the Champions League, scoring the second against Manchester United in 2011. That camaraderie he shares with fellow colleagues such as Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta.
And also that moment where Carles Rexach, with no paper in hand, sealed Messi's first Blaugrana contract on a paper napkin. That was the catalyst of modern day football. It gave Messi to the world.960894