Lionel Messi firmly believes that under Xavi Hernandez – Barcelona would grow in the coming days. The Argentine and Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) superstar expressed his opinion with MARCA.
Focusing on the football side of things, Messi knows that there’s a lot of pressure on Paris Saint-Germain
You have won your eighth Pichichi prize, which is a record in La Liga Santander
The truth is that it is crazy to have won so many Pichichis. It seemed impossible that I could reach [Telmo] Zarra’s six and even more so to overtake him. It is something spectacular.
You had to leave La Liga but you broke that record and so many others that may never be surpassed, don’t you think?
Today, being in Paris, I don’t give it the value that it really has. We have a game every three days and you don’t have time to think about that. One focuses on the game that is coming and on achieving the challenges and objectives that we have set for ourselves.
When I retire, when I start to see all the records that I was lucky enough to achieve, then I will give it the value that it really has. Reviewing it will be something extraordinary.
And here in Paris, you have already adapted, with a house, the children’s school issue resolved. We see you go out with Antonela to dinner. You are settling down
Now I am very well. I am fully adapted ever since we were able to enter our new home and the children started school and their daily routine. We also had to go through many trips to Argentina for the qualifiers that prevented us from having continuity with matches here. But I’ve settled down well.
How do your children handle it? Did they start learning French?
It was much easier than we imagined at first. We had given it a lot of thought and how difficult it was going to be for them. And in the end, they were the ones who adapted and got used the quickest.
Messi watching Harry Potter with his kids ❤️
From one wizard to another ? pic.twitter.com/igVitQvctH
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) November 19, 2021
They are already going to school and will surely learn French very quickly because when it comes to learning, children fly. All this has given us great peace of mind, both to Antonela and to me. We have seen that very quickly they were very well and adapted to the new city and country.
With you, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar, as well as many others, is it possible to think that PSG are not the big favourites to win the Champions League?
Everyone says that we are the big favourites and I will not deny that we are one of the candidates by name, but we still need things to become a really strong team. We have to finish consolidating as a team and we have the advantage of having very great players to achieve it.
But we are not the only ones; there are other great teams that are candidates. The Champions League is a very difficult competition that makes it so beautiful and special. The best teams are there and it is getting more and more complicated. Yes, amongst the favourites, but not the only ones.
Which teams do you think are candidates for the Champions League?
Now, Liverpool are doing very well. They are again [looking like] the Liverpool that won the Champions League. Then there are Manchester City, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid…
There are many teams that can fight for the Champions League, which is one of the most even and competitive in recent years because there are several teams that could win it.
Do you think that Spanish teams have any chance?
Real Madrid are always competitive. The same goes for Atletico and the two will be there fighting. They are two very difficult opponents in two-legged ties. They both know the competition very well and how to play it, which is why they are undoubtedly two of the favourites. Barcelona are going through a stage of reconstruction with a team in which there are many young players.
Today I think there are better teams than Barcelona, but, although they give that impression now, that does not mean that later they will not be able to fight because we must take into account the arrival of Xavi [Hernandez], the renewed enthusiasm and the power to recover some players that they do not have now.
They can keep growing and fighting.
Sevilla now have a difficult situation in their group, but they still have options to qualify and they are a competitive team. All Spanish teams are and have been showing it over the last few years in Europe, both in the Champions League and in the Europa League. They were always there.
What do you think of Cristiano’s performances?
[Manchester] United are a very strong team with great players. Cristiano already knew the club, but that was at another stage and now he has adapted in an impressive way. From the beginning, he has scored goals as always and had no problems adapting.
In the Premier League, [Manchester United] are not as good as we all thought, but it is a very difficult and even competition in which things take a lot of turns. After December it changes a lot and anything can happen.
Tell me the truth, don’t you miss those direct duels with Ronaldo?
It’s been a long time since we stopped competing in the same league. We competed individually and as a team for the same goals.
It was a very beautiful period for us and also for the fans because they enjoyed it very much. It is a beautiful memory that will remain in the history of football.
Neymar, Cristiano, Leo Messi… why does LaLiga lose a superstar every season and what can be done to avoid it or attract new stars?
Hopefully, they can bring back great players and have the best as it was in the last decade or fifteen years. And as it was historically. It was always one of the best leagues in the world and I hope it can become that again. It is true that many stars left for different reasons, but I am confident that in the future La Liga can be [as good] as always.
Speaking of stars, do you see Mbappe at Real Madrid next season?
The truth is I do not know. Only he knows what he has in his head and what he is going to do. I can only say that I am happy that he has stayed here this year. He is a very important player for us and to fight for the objectives we have. He is fully focused on our goals. And then he will decide what he will do when the season is over. The truth is that I don’t know what will happen.
Does he speak Spanish well?
He speaks it perfectly. But he speaks very well in everything: Spanish, English, obviously French…
What is the PSG dressing room like? It’s said that so many leaders cannot co-exist
I have been lucky to arrive at a dressing room with very good players and very good people. This is the most important thing. My adaptation has been very fast. It is true that at first, it was very strange. On the one hand, there is the difficulty of moving to a new place after so many years in the same place, but on the other, it was very easy because I knew many players and there is a lot of Spanish spoken there.
There are very good people. It is a very close-knit squad, you could already see that from the outside and it is something that I have been able to confirm by being on the inside.
What does it feel like having Sergio Ramos in the same dressing room after all that you experienced in Spain as rivals?
Now nothing, but at first it was weird after so many years of being rivals, being the two captains of Barcelona and Madrid, after so many Clasicos played, so many fights we had on the pitch. But all that is in the past and we have always respected each other a lot, no matter how much we have been rivals in those Clasicos.
Having him as a teammate today is spectacular. Little by little he is getting back up to speed and hopefully, he will play as quickly as possible because he is going to be a fundamental player in order to fight for our targets.
Is Sergio Ramos as you imagined?
I already knew him. It is true that we had not spoken at length, but we had crossed paths in LaLiga for many years and we had spoken more than once. I already had an idea of what he was like. I had former teammates who had been with him in the Spanish national team so I already knew him. And now, having had more time together in Paris, I have seen that he is a great person.
What can Xavi give Barcelona?
He can contribute a lot. He is a coach who knows a lot, knows the place perfectly and has lived in Barcelona since he was a child. He has brought back hope to Barcelona because he is a highly respected figure among the fans and the players.
He will be a very important coach for the younger players because he is going to teach them. With him, the team will grow a lot. I have no doubt.
Xavi said that you had sent him a message in a humorous tone when he signed…
I speak with Xavi often. Since forever. We are friends, we have shared so many things and since he left we have kept in touch. I don’t remember what I told him in the message, I congratulated him on this new step and I wish him well. He will definitely do very well because he knows a lot, he is a hard worker and knows the academy well.
Do you think Barcelona dealt with Koeman unfairly? Do you think the coach was responsible for the team’s situation?
It’s always unfair on coaches. It was unfair with Koeman, with Valverde… when there are bad results, the easiest thing is to target the coach, to replace him and not the players.
Koeman arrived at a very difficult time at the club in which key players left, but he was able to bring through many young players. As I told you, the easiest thing is always to blame the coach. And they [coaches] know it too because it is their profession.
Has the return of Dani Alves surprised you? What do you think he can contribute?
The truth is that his return surprised me, especially at this moment. I think he can be a good addition, just as in the case of Xavi, he can be important for the youngsters. He is going to help them grow because he is a winner and transmits a lot.
He will do that to the youngsters, both in games and in training. Because he is also going to contribute a lot off the pitch with his daily work, commitment and the desire that he always has to win.
Barcelona are far from the top and at serious risk of being knocked out of the Champions League in tonight’s game. What do you think? Does it make you sad?
Yes, obviously. I always want the best for Barcelona. I’m a fan even though I’m not playing there now. And I have colleagues and friends there within the team.
I want them to do well. It is true that in LaLiga they’ve dropped many points, but there is still a lot more to play for and I have no doubt that Barcelona will get themselves back up the table.
On your departure from the club, it was said that there was no money due to Financial Fair Play. Looking back, do you think there was any reason other than those given by president Joan Laporta?
I do not know, but it’s done. I left there and time has passed. What they told me is that they couldn’t renew my contract and that I couldn’t stay. You don’t have to look for more culprits or look back at what happened. I’ll stick with what they told me and that’s it.
Laporta said the other day that he believed you and Iniesta could return to Barcelona. Can you make that dream come true? As a player?
That was not specified at the time, although he later said in another interview that it would not be to be as a player.
I always said that at some point I will return to Barcelona because it is my home and because I am going to live there. And obviously, if I can contribute and help the club I would love to come back.
You must be happy because with Argentina because they have already qualified for the World Cup and it is the finishing touch of an incredible year.
It was spectacular and incredible at the national level. I was able to achieve one of the goals that had cost me so much, which was Copa America because I had been very close several times but had not achieved it. We ended up accomplishing our goal of qualifying for the World Cup in a brilliant way. And now we want to go for more.
What can Argentina achieve at the World Cup?
We are doing very well now. Having won the Copa America helps a lot because the team works differently and is more confident.
But we know that we still have a long way to go to be among the favourites. We will try to arrive in the best possible way to continue competing as we are doing in each game.
And Spain will also be there, who with your former coach Luis Enrique has also qualified. How do you see the Spanish team, did you ever think that Spain would fail to qualify?
I see them doing very well. I have followed Spain’s matches when I’ve been able to. You can see the impact of Luis Enrique, you can see that it is his national team. Whoever plays, they all have very clear ideas and they work as a team. They are a very good team, they showed it in the European Championship and in the World Cup qualifiers. In the European Championship, they deserved much more and in the [qualifying] group, although they did not make it until the very end, they had a very good qualifying round, always being always protagonists and having the ball during all the games.
Would you agree from now to a Spain-Argentina final in the World Cup?
Obviously. With Spain or whoever. I would like to be in another final and achieve another goal. The enthusiasm and the dream are always there.