At what moment did you realise that some of the world's best players were special? Witnessing a football legend arriving on the scene is a unique discovery. Shocking and glorious in equal measure.
Let's look back and recall six special evenings that saw new heroes make their marks in unique and wonderful ways.

Cristiano Ronaldo

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Manchester United 4-0 Bolton
Premier League - August 16, 2003
At the age of 18, Cristiano Ronaldo arrived in England after having seduced Sir Alex Ferguson just a few weeks earlier wearing a Sporting Lisbon jersey against Manchester United in a friendly. For his big premiere at Old Trafford, he came on as a substitute on the hour mark in place of Nicky Butt with United holding an unconvincing 1-0 lead over Bolton.
In just 30 minutes it was abundantly clear that in Ronaldo United had something very special, and they went on to win 4-0.
"Right away I'm like, 'He's got balls'," Ferguson recalled in his autobiography, while Bolton coach Sam Allardyce immediately compared him to the legendary Ryan Giggs.
"It was the best debut in a Manchester jersey that I have seen in my entire life," enthused the late George Best, a fellow iconic United number seven.
"Some players have things in common with me, but he has more than anyone else, especially since he plays with both feet."

Lionel Messi

Chelsea 1-2 Barcelona
Champions League last 16 - February 22, 2006
At 18, Lionel Messi was already showing he was a special talent. It had been 10 months since the little Argentine scored his first goal in La Liga and he was starting to make people talk about him even outside Spain. But he was not expected to make such an impression in the knockout stages of the Champions League in 2006.
That evening it was absolutely clear that Barcelona had a unique talent. "That day, I met a monster," Chelsea midfielder Claude Makelele said.
Messi got injured in the second leg and that put an end to his season as Barcelona went on to win the Champions League without him, but the true extent of his impact would only be postponed.

Messi and Robben - Chelsea vs Barça (February 2006)

Image credit: Getty Images

Manuel Neuer

Porto 1-0 Schalke (Aggregate 1-1, Schalke won 4-1 on penalties)
Champions League last 16 - March 5, 2008
"A star is born." That is how the English press summed up Manuel Neuer's evening. The legend of the best goalkeeper of the 2010s began one evening in the knockout stages of the Champions League in Porto.
Schalke relied on the exploits of their 21-year-old goalkeeper. "It's still one of the greatest matches of my career today," he recalled in 2015.
That evening, he sickened the Portuguese team with his saves, and the nickname 'The Gelsenkirchen wall' was born even though he was only playing in his second season as a starter.
"We owe our qualification to the fantastic saves of our goalkeeper," admitted Mirko Slomka, his coach, after Schalke won a dramatic penalty shootout.


Santos 4-5 Flamengo
Campeonato Brasileiro Serie A - July 27, 2011
"Today's game will make history." As soon as the game was over, the legendary Vanderlei Luxembourgo, then coach of Flamengo, immediately understood Neymar's talent and everyone in Brazil remembers what happened that day.
Neymar was already an international but still a long way from Europe and Barcelona. At 19, the future superstar showed the greatest promise in Brazil but no one knew where his career would go from there.
On this day it was a changing of the guard in many ways. A hat-trick and an assist for Ronaldinho, a brace and two assists for his successor, Neymar, including a wonder goal that would earn him the Puskas Award ahead of Lionel Messi.
Now looking back, there is no doubt that this match marked the moment Neymar arrived as a global star.

Barcelona lining up Neymar to replace Messi - Euro Papers

Antoine Griezmann

Lyon 0-2 Real Sociedad
Champions League play-offs - August 21, 2013
It always took him longer than others. But when he exploded, Griezmann did it in style. After a few decent seasons in La Liga at Real Sociedad, the Frenchman discovered the global stage and the Champions League one summer evening in Lyon.
Griezmann, then totally unknown to the general public at 22 years old, tasted Europe-wide recognition.
After just 17 minutes of the match Lyon realised they were dealing with a phenomenon. Griezmann scored the most beautiful goal of his career that evening. From this match onwards he was no longer a stranger.

Kylian Mbappe

Manchester City 5-3 Monaco
Champions League last 16 - February 21, 2017
With Kylian, everything just happened much faster. The Mbappe meteorite ravaged Europe in the space of a few matches, and at the age of just 18.
That evening at the Etihad Stadium, every observer understood that they were witnessing the birth of a phenomenon. In the middle of a fantastic round of 16, he became the second youngest French goalscorer in Champions League history.
Everyone knew then that this was only the beginning and that this starlet had the world at his feet.
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