Every word Lionel Messi had to say to Jorge Valdano
Messi sat down with Jorge Valdano for the show ‘Universo Valdano’. Read every word below:
PSG and Argentina forward Lionel Messi sat down with Jorge Valdano for an interview on his show ‘Universo Valdano’. The following is every word Lionel said, with topics ranging from his early life, to Guardiola “damaging football”, to Luis Enrique’s Spain side. Enjoy!
On his childhood:
“My parents expected a girl. My dad was convinced that I would be a girl. They had a name chosen and everything. I always said that when I was four or five years old I had the same style when I arrived at the Primera División. I strengthened and improved that gift. I tried to get better every day. But what I got was given to me by God, I have no doubts.
Personally and in terms of football, coming to Barcelona was a huge change. When I was in Argentina, I went to train and the ball wasn’t important. Then I got to Barcelona and everything was done with the ball.
I have grown up with the ball ever since I was able to think. I used to always play with my siblings, cousins, older people. In the neighbourhood, I used to love playing. I wanted to play with my brothers and they didn’t let me. I used to get annoyed, I used to fight over it. I spent my childhood on the street. Today that’s difficult. It was football, all the time.
We used to play for a local team. Between my brothers and cousins we were in all age categories. My grandma would take us to training. One day one of the older guys didn’t show so my grandma asked the coach if he would let me join then, and it went from there.
I was lazy at school, it was difficult. I was a good kid, for sure. They would punish me by not lotting me play football and that forced me to be good at school.
I was about seven or eight when I went to watch Newell’s at the stadium. I started playing there when I was eight years old until twelve since it was eleven-a-side. My treatment started when I was eleven. It was an expensive treatment and my dad did what he could to finance it. It was difficult.
I did a trial at River Plate and they told me to come back. They said they would pay for the treatment but I had to get Newell’s to let me go. I didn’t even try as I knew it was impossible.”
On moving to Barcelona:
I was in Barcelona doing tests for 15 days. We had a match on the last day with an older team. For me it was spectacular to be at Barça. They gave you the kit, the boots, the pitch. You start to train and they give you a ball so you can warm up on your own. I’d never seen anything like this. I was so impressed.
It was difficult for me to get used to being in the dressing room but once I got out on the pitch I was fine. I missed going out on the street to play like in Argentina.
For a ten or eleven year old kid to go out and play on the street today is difficult. The uncertainty that comes with it, and now there’s other things like the PlayStation, iPad, etc.
I think football has changed a lot. It’s more difficult to see a different player, one that isn’t like the rest. That’s because since you’re a kid you’re told to play a certain way. I think it’s changed a lot. Football is getting more and more tactical. You can see that today any team makes things difficult for another without having great players, just playing well tactically and being organised.
I had a difficult year. I went six months without player and when I came back, I got injured again. My brother went back to Argentina... my little sister was six or seven and didn’t adapt well. The family split and it was tough. My dad asked if I wanted to come back to Argentina but I’d already done the hard part. I was used to being in Barcelona. It was a complicated time. I felt it was my fault we were separated but I couldn’t see anything other than playing football.
On breaking through to the first team:
At 14 years old, the first year was great. During the next year I went up through the age categories. Within two years I was training with the first team, with the B team - it all went so quickly. I am very organised. I like to have things organised and I get annoyed when things are done without planning.
Before the Gamper I had done pre-season with Rijkaard in China or Japan. There was no room for more foreign players in the squad. At that time Márquez, Ronaldinho and Eto’o were there, I think. That Gamper with Juventus changed everything. It changed the way the club saw me.
“Ronaldinho, Deco, Motta, Sylvinho, Xavi, Puyol... everyone made me feel at home from the beginning. The way they treated me was amazing. It’s not easy to go into a dressing room like that and they made it normal for me.
I said to my dad I had to do something to make sure that in Argentina the people knew I was here. I had two friendlies with the youth [national] team and then they knew me. I started at about 17 or 18 years old. I went to the u-20s and we won it.
On the Argentina national team:
I always felt the care of the people but there was always a part of Argentina that questioned me. They had an opinion over everything I did. In 2012 in that Copa América we started badly. When we got knocked out we had one of the best games of the whole tournament. We ended up losing on penalties. In the first two games we did play badly. That was bad, just like the 2010 World Cup. In 2006 I hadn’t played in Germany before and they started to criticise me. In 2007 we lost the Copa América final in Venezuela. From then on everything got bigger.
On Pep Guardiola:
Guardiola’s time at Barça was extraordinary. He found a generation that was unique. It was impressive. Going to play anywhere and know you were going to win whoever you were up against and in the way we did it. We had painful defeats but we had a good sense of confidence during training. I regret not having enjoyed that time more. You’re in the thick of it day after day and you don’t realise. How, Guardiola prepared the games, how the opponent was going to play, everything.
We did it so easily and it was so natural that we didn’t realise what we were doing. With the passing of time you realise it was something unique. Guardiola did a lot of damage to football because he made it look so easy and everyone wants to copy. He’s the best coach, without a doubt, he has something special. How he sees the game, prepares them and communicates them to you, how he tells you.
Guardiola called me one afternoon in the training ground, at seven o’clock. I was at home. I went and he told me I was going to play as a false 9 against Real Madrid. We’re going to do x, y z. One of the first goals, the Henry one, is exactly how he predicted it. I always liked to be on the ball and have Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets next to me. It was so much easier. Guardiola was something special.
On Luis Enrique and Spain:
Luis Enrique is very similar to Guardiola. Guardiola has something special but Luis Enrique is similar in the sense of how he prepares and reads the games; how he looks for the gaps to hurt the opponent. He had the same philosophy. It’s easy to recognise it’s his side now, the national team. I know what it’s like to work with him. This national team is what he wants.
I came back from holiday in Argentina and we played the 2-3 January and i was on the bench. We had a little argument but after we made up. I am a person who reacts like that, I can’t control anything. In a split second I regret not having thought more about it or having acted differently. I’m like that. I was never pretending and I said what I thought and think. I got things wrong thousands of times and I’ll keep doing it. With Luis Enrique I had a fantastic relationship right up until the last day when we told him to stay, that he shouldn’t leave. We were all great with him. He was an important part of my career.
Spain is a team that are very clear in their ideas. They make you run, they bring the ball out from the back and have a lot of good players. Spain has a lot of quality and always play their way regardless of the opponent. It’s a young team but their idea is clear.
On his private life:
Being Messi has its bad side. I like to do a lot of things unnoticed. Not be seen all the time and not feeling like everyone’s looking at you all the time. I’m used to it. When I’m with my family and kids, it’s always my escape. I’ve known my wife since we were 7 or 8 years old. When I came to Barcelona and there was no communication, we spoke once a week and quickly so it didn’t cost a lot. I had that relationship in my head all my life.
I get advice from my family and wife. They tell me how it is when they need to. When I’m with my friends or family I’m not Messi, I’m just another person. I get home and see my kids and wife, in Argentina having that time to celebrate with my family, that’s the best thing there is for me.
I learnt to enjoy things in a different way. Because of my age and to see that the clock is always ticking. Nowadays I enjoy everything so much more, from the day to day things to the national team. There’s a great group there since the Brazil Copa América. The fact we won made everything so much easier afterwards, more natural. I think today people don’t value things just on winning or losing. And that’s important.
On Argentina manager, Lionel Scaloni:
Scaloni always had a very special personality. He’s a great manager. The best thing about him is that he’s a great communicator and how he manages the group. He put his faith in players that he thought would be best for the team. He’s convinced of his idea and doesn’t look at what other people say. The way he treats the players makes the group what it is today.
On the favourites for the 2022 World Cup:
Any national team is difficult, it doesn’t matter which one. We didn’t have many matches against European teams either. I think we got there in a good moment but there was no need to get caught up by everyone and think that we’re favourites. You have to be realistic and go game by game. I think France, even if they had injured players, have fantastic potential. They have so many good players and a manger who’s been there with the same group for a long time. They won a World Cup. Brazil have a squad of players with a lot of quality and many dangerous players. They have a striker, they have Ney... I think we too have a good group, players in a good moment. Gio [Lo Celso] injury was bad luck for us. We’re going to fight. We’re going into it with that idea.