In Conversation With Lionel Messi
Two weeks ago, he leapt off the bench and saved Barca the blushes as he equalised against AC Milan. “Messi is the greatest by a distance. When he is on the run, he is unstoppable. He can change direction so quickly,” Arsene Wenger, Arsenal manager remarks about Messi. The Catalonian giant’s knight in shining armour talks about Guardiola, why he never went to a nightclub going out and Real Madrid’s Ronaldo-Bale double threat in this EXCLUSIVE interview.
FHM: This is probably the longest time you’ve spent on the bench/sidelines, are there any new hobbies you’ve taken up? Cooking for example?
LM: I think when you are injured you are just working hard on getting fit and back in the team. It is not like a vacation – it is a time when have to work harder – and do exactly what the medical team ask of you. I do like to play video games though.
FHM: How different is it playing under Gerardo Martino after Pep Guardiola. What was the kind of equation you shared with him after he openly said that you will be substituted frequently?
LM: I think all top coaches have their different style – and Pep was fantastic to work with – he was very important in my development. All of the players have taken to Gerardo – and he has us playing some beautiful football. My aim is always to do what is best for the team – and if I am substituted I will trust the coach’s decision.
FHM: Neymar has turned down more money for a Barca cap so that he could play with you. What is it about Barca philosophy that attracted the world’s most promising striker to reject the world’s biggest club’s offer?
LM: I think there is no better team in the world to be at than Barca. We have been successful – but also it is the way we have been successful. We play the game the way it should be played – and that is a big attraction for players of Neymar’s quality.
FHM: How do you plan to tackle the Ronaldo and Bale double threat? How do you fancy Barca’s chances this season?
LM: Real Madrid have some fantastic players – and Ronaldo and Gareth Bale are just two of them. It is not important for us what Real Madrid do – all that is important is what Barcelona do. We have got off to a very good start in Spain and in Europe – and if we keep working hard then we have a big chance of being successful.
FHM: Indians have always been fans of Latin American football — we believe you got a first — hand look of this when you travelled to India. What was the experience like?
LM: I am thankful to all my fans, but the reception in India was overwhelming. I remember that the plane arrived in India very late at night and I didn’t expect there to be any fans waiting. When we got out of the airport though – there were so many India fans and they were wearing their Messi jerseys. It was a great experience. The Indian fans are very passionate, which I respect.
FHM: Would you say the Argentinian national football team has gotten over the 2010 world cup thrashing? How do you fancy their chances for 2014?
LM: In football, you always have to move on after defeat and the World Cup in Brazil is a big chance for us to prove ourselves. We are going there with a clear ambition to win it, but of course, there are many good teams. We have a very strong team – and if we play well then we have a chance. Spain, Germany, and Brazil will be very strong – but there is a real belief in The Argentina team now.
FHM: Do you think you have to win The World Cup to be considered the best player of all time?
LM: I think to be truly great you need to win The World Cup at some point in your career. There is no bigger trophy to win in football – and if as a player you never win it then there will always be something missing.
FHM: You get a lot of players trying to kick you, and foul you, how do you keep so cool?
LM: I can’t go out on the field and worry about players trying to kick me or foul me – if I worry about that sort of thing then I will lose focus on my game. Yes, I do get players trying to foul me – but I have to trust referees to do their job properly and just concentrate on my football.
FHM: You are one of the most famous sportsmen in the world – but you don’t like the limelight, do you?
LM: If you want to be the best you can’t live like you are a movie star. At Barcelona, we are taught to stay out of the pubs – and just concentrate on my football. I don’t like to have my life played out in the public. When I am not playing or training – I am just at home relaxing with my family.