Lionel Messi has been dominating football headlines for half a decade now, and it seems there is no stopping this 26-year-old Argentine. With his league team Barcelona, the forward has won six La Ligas, two Copas del Rey, five Supercopas de España, three UEFA Champions Leagues, two UEFA Super Cups and two Club World Cups, and hopes to add the World Cup and the Golden Boot to his trophy cabinet. The ‘regular’ guy of football tells us more about the honour of leading his country, being a team player and why Argentina are favourites to win the top fight of football.
Is 2014 the year for Argentina?
I hope so. I hope it’s the summer that Argentina become champions. I know how much it would mean to everyone back home. I’m going to Brazil because I want to be a champion, and win the World Cup for my teammates, my family, my people. I will give 100%, I always do. But it is a team game, it is not all about me. If the win doesn’t come, it won’t be because we haven’t tried hard enough. We are motivated, we are ready.
The German lesson from 2010. The tournament is very short, so one mistake and you can be on your way home. It was very disappointing losing to Germany, but they were an excellent side on the day. They still are. We learned that you have to concentrate hard, every moment. We are more focused than ever on the job in hand this time around.
Agrentina v Barcelona
I love my club football and I love Barcelona, which has been my home since I was 12, but I have always felt strongly loyal to my country. I’ve never stopped being Argentine, and I’ve never wanted to. I want to be as successful for my country as I am for my club.
Being favourites of Group F.
People may point to us as favourites for the group, and I guess we are, but the World Cup is all about upsetting the odds. For two sides like Bosnia and Iran, to get to the World Cup is absolutely huge. And Nigeria are very dangerous. They are consistent. Yes, there are harder groups out there, but it is not an easy group.
Victory on Brazilian soil.
I’d be lying to say that it wouldn’t be very special. Brazil against Argentina in the final at the Maracana? That would be some dream, wouldn’t it? You can only imagine how much the people back home in Argentina would love it if we could beat Brazil – it would be talked about forever.
World Cup heroes.
I always admired Pablo Aimar, he came from River and I followed him a lot, he was my favourite. To have played with him is something very special for me. I was very young, but I remember watching Diego Maradona in the 1994 World Cup. And when I was a little older, Zidane for France, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Rivaldo for Brazil. They are all superb players, ones that you can learn from as a young player.
How has your style of play changed? Are you the same Leo Messi as you were playing on the streets as a kid?
My style has pretty much stayed the same, I have played this way since I was a young boy. I have learned a lot and have evolved wherever I have been, and there was more technical work and ball work when I came to Spain from Argentina, but I have always tried to express myself in the same way. I have learned tactically too, but when it’s just me and the ball, that’s when I’m happiest – attacking.
A huge honour, one of the biggest honours you can have as an Argentine. Alejandro Sabella has said it has helped my game, and maybe it does get you thinking a little bit more about what you can do for your team and how you can help the side. I am enjoying it. It the captain doesn’t distract me from my natural game. And off the pitch, I do the same things as ever with my teammates. I remember senior players being great with me when I was young and coming through for Argentina, so I try to be like that with them, too.
Now you’re at the top, where next?
I don’t think about trying to be the best. Judge me when I retire, I think. I always look forward, the things that have been won already are in the past. On to the next challenge. But every single day I try to improve myself. You can always improve parts of your game. 100% perfect is not possible. My motivation is to wake up every day happy, to be professional but to have fun.
Potentially winning the Golden Boot.
I like to score goals, and if I could get the Golden Boot, it would be something very special for me. But more importantly, it would mean that Argentina are doing well. The team of the Golden Boot winner usually makes it to the semi-finals or further, and that is what we want. But I would happily not score any goals and swap that for a World Cup!
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- Team Indulge