In September 2000, a 13-year-old Messi went to Barcelona for a trial with only 140 cm in height. Messi's performance in the trial impressed the Barcelona youth team coach, and the club was so excited by the young talent that they offered him a 12-year contract, forgetting FIFA regulations which state that players under the age 20 cannot sign more than a 5-year contract with the club. Barcelona had made tremendous efforts to help Messi grow, and under the treatment arranged by the club, Messi reached 169 cm by 2003.
"I'll never forget the fact that he launched my career, that he had confidence in me while I was only 16 or 17." - Messi on his ex-coach Rijkaard.
"I have seen the player who will inherit my place in Argentinian football and his name is Messi." - Diego Maradona on 18-year-old Messi, February 2006.
Messi won second place in the 2008 FIFA World Player of the Year award and third in the 2008 IFFHS World's Best Playmaker Award for the second consecutive year, also placing second in the 2008 Ballon d'Or behind Cristiano Ronaldo, once again. At the end of 2009, he was voted both European Player of the Year and World Player of the Year. Messi also won the UEFA Club Footballer of the Year and the UEFA Club Forward of the Year awards to round off a spectacular year in Europe.
"For the world of football, he is a treasure because he is a role model for children around the world. In the space of half a metre, he can move right or left - it is like he has the ball attached to his body. Maradona was also a little bit like this, and it could be because they are both low centre of gravity." - Dutch legend Johan Cruyff after Messi set a new goal-scoring record for Barcelona, March 2012.