When Lionel Messi first arrived at Barcelona, some observers likened the incredibly talented youngster to a "circus performer".

That's according to Joan Vila Bosch, who coached youth teams at the Catalan club for more than 20 years and helped to shape the careers of players like Messi, Xavi Hernandez, Carlos Puyol and Cesc Fabregas.

Vila Bosch vividly recalls the arrival of Messi back in September 2001, a diminutive softly spoken youngster from Rosario.

"When Messi arrived at the age of 13 we all saw that he was a different player, very different," Vila Bosch told the New Zealand Herald. "But there were concerns because he was so small, very small. Some people thought he was like a circus performer.


He could control the ball very well and had all the skills and tricks but football is not just about that."

Some observers initially wondered if his stunning array of skills could translate to senior football, but as he worked his way through the grades the doubters quickly diminished.

"It become obvious that Messi was a remarkable player," said Vila Bosch.

"But none of us - without exception- were thinking that he could become the best player in the world, and possibly the best player of all time. The evolution of Messi has been spectacular, especially in the last few years. He has been able to get the very best out of his immense talent but also the way we play has helped him a lot."

Vila Bosch, who has been the Director of Methodology at the Nou Camp since 2010, argues that as much as Barcelona needs Messi, the Argentine thrives on Barcelona's unique possession based style .

"Messi plays much better for Barcelona than Argentina," said Vila Bosch. "Messi has become a better and better player at Barcelona and also a better team player. He's an incredible talent but it has been maximised here."

Since his senior debut in October 2004 Messi has scored more than 430 goals for Barcelona, including almost 300 goals in La Liga and almost 80 strikes in European competition.