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Lionel Messi, the captain of the Argentina national team, gave an interview to Movistar TV, hosted by Jorge Valdano, the legend of the same team.
Here are the highlights of Liu’s interview:
Beginning and childhood
I had two male brothers and my family was expecting a girl. My parents were so convinced that they actually chose a girl’s name.
Since I was young I have been trying to improve and develop every day, but what touched me was a gift from the Lord. I have no doubts.
Going to Barcelona was an extraordinary change. When I was in Argentina I used to train a little bit with the ball as they would send us running more, but in Barcelona it was all with the ball.
I grew up with football all the time. I always played with my brothers, relatives and older people. I loved to play in the neighborhood, and my childhood was spent in the street. Today that is difficult.
We played at the neighborhood club, and my grandmother used to take us to training. One day there was a player who was absent from the older team and my grandmother asked the coach to put me with them in his place. I convinced him and here it all began.
In school I was lazy and this cost me a lot. My behavior was good, but they punished me with deprivation of the ball and this forced me to do well in school.
When I was 7 or 8 I went to see the Newell Old Boys on the field. I started playing there when I was eight until I was 12 years old when I was already playing in teams of 11 players. I started my treatment in Argentina at the age of 11, it was very expensive and my father did everything to pay for it. It was so hard.
I did tests in River Plate and they told me: Come back. They told me they would pay for the treatment but I had to get Newell’s permission, I didn’t even try because I knew it was impossible.
I had 15 days of tests in Barcelona, and on the last day I played a match with an older age group. For me it was great to be in Barcelona, they gave me clothes, shoes and an artificial pitch. I started training and they gave me a ball to warm up myself, I’ve never seen anything like that before.
I missed playing in the street like my Argentina days. Today, a 10- or 11-year-old finds it difficult to play in the street. There are more things to play with than an iPad.
I think football has changed a lot. Now it’s hard to see a different player or out of the ordinary, because they force you to play a certain way from a young age. Football will become more tactical with time. Everyone plays more.
I had a very difficult year. I couldn’t play for 6 months and when I came back I was injured again. My brother went back to Argentina, and my younger sister was 6 or 7 years old and she just couldn’t fit in. The family broke up and it was hard, my dad asked me several times if I wanted to go back to Argentina, but I got through the hardest part and really adapted in Barcelona. It was a difficult time, and I felt it was my fault that my family members separated but I had no choice but to keep playing.
I was 14 years old, I kept moving forward in the age groups, and in two years I was already training with the first and second teams, everything went fast. I am an organized person and get upset when things happen suddenly.
Before the Joan Gamper Cup I had spent the preparation period with the first team under Frank Rijkaard in China or Japan, there was no limit for foreigners, and at that time there was Rafa Marquez, Ronaldinho and Samuel Eto’o I think. The Gamper Cup against Juventus changed everything, and the club’s view of me.
Ronaldinho, Deco, Thiago Motta, Sylvinho, Xavi and Puyol, they all made me feel like one of them from the start. They treated me great, and it’s not easy to walk into a dressing room like this and adjust normally.
Beginning with Argentina
I told my father that we should do something so that they would know me in Argentina. I went to two friendlies with the smaller teams and they already knew me. I wanted to be there with the Argentina national team. I went to the Olympics and we won it.
I’ve always felt loved by people but there was a part of the Argentines who always questioned me. They said their opinion of everything I did. In 2006 I didn’t play against Germany (in the quarter-finals) and they really started criticizing me. In 2007 we lost the Copa America final in Venezuela, and from that moment on everything escalated. A lot has happened and the years have had many moments of frustration, which is why I cried at the last Copa America.
The match against Chelsea (2006) against Jose Mourinho was a battle. The ground is bad, it was a tough match. Barcelona played there the year before and was beaten a lot.
Guardiola’s period was exceptional. He has created a unique generation of players. We were going to play anywhere and we knew we would win, whoever the opponent was, our way. We had painful defeats, but we were confident. I regret that I didn’t enjoy it more.
We made it seem so easy and natural that we didn’t even notice what we were doing. Over time we noticed that it was a unique period. Pep Guardiola has hurt football a lot because it seems simple and everyone wants to find his own Guardiola. He is the best coach without a doubt and he has a special ability.
He called me once in the evening when I was at home, so I went to his office and he told me I was going to play as a fake striker against Real Madrid, and he explained it to me. Thierry Henry’s goal came exactly as he expected in the match.
I always loved playing with the ball with Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets around, it was a lot easier. Guardiola was exceptional.
Enrique and Spain
Luis Enrique is very similar to Guardiola in the way he prepares and reads the match. He looks for loopholes to hurt the opponent and has the same philosophy. I know what it’s like to work with him. The current Spain national team is what he wants.
The quarrel with Enrique? I came back from Argentina after the holiday and we were going to play at the beginning of January and I was on the bench. We had a heated discussion for a while and then fixed things up later. I’m always like this, never in control of anything, and then regretting that I didn’t think more or act differently, but I never lied and said what I thought. I was wrong several times and I will continue to be, my relationship with Enrique was great, and until the last day we were asking him to stay. It is an important part of my career.
Spain are a clear team about what they play for, they make you run and get the ball, and they have high quality players. They play the same way whoever the opponent is, the team is young but has clear ideas.
the other side
Messi has a bad side. I would like no one to notice me for many things and not draw attention or feel like everyone is looking at me all the time. I’m used to it, but when I’m with my family or kids, it’s always my sanctuary.
I’ve known a woman (his wife Antonella) since I was 7 or 8 years old, and when I went to Barcelona we’d talk once a week, all my life this relationship was on my mind.
I take advice from my family and my wife. When I’m with my friends and family I’m not Messi the player but a different person.
I’ve learned to enjoy things in a different way now that I’m older. Now I enjoy every day with the club and the national team. We’ve had a great squad in the squad since the last Copa America, and winning makes things easier after that and more natural. Today I think people don’t just measure things by winning and losing, and that’s a little bit mental.
Scaloni and the World Cup
Lionel Scaloni (Argentina coach) has always been a special person, he is a good coach and the best part is the way he communicates with and manages the group. He chose the players he thought were the best for the team. He does not look at what others say.
It is very simple, realistic and natural. He knows the meaning of being in a national team, and he always respects everyone.
The period under Maradona (the coach of the national team at the 2010 World Cup) was fantastic. We got to the World Cup suffering but the whole process was good, no matter how it ended. He also enjoyed having him with us every day.
A complex team, whatever its name. I think we are at a good moment but we must not make the mistake of getting carried away by the madness of people and thinking that we are the favourites. We must be realistic. I think France is strong despite the injuries. They won the World Cup last year and they have a lot of quality.
We are very unlucky for Giovanni Lo Celso’s injury, but we will fight back.
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