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Soccer

Lionel Messi talks Karim Benzema, Ballon d’Or, World Cup and Diego Maradona

Messi discussed his tribute to his compatriot Diego Maradona as well as Karim Benzema and the Ballon d’Or.

Kieran Quaile
Update:
BILBAO, SPAIN - MAY 28: Lionel Messi of Argentina looks on during a training session at San Mames Stadium Camp on May 28, 2022 in Bilbao, Spain. Argentina will face Italy in Wembley on June 1 as part of the Finalissima Trophy. (Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)
Juan Manuel Serrano ArceGetty

Lionel Messi sat down for an exclusive interview with TyC Sports while on international duty with Argentina. On 1 June, Italy and Argentina meet in the Finalissima at Wembley Stadium in London.

The PSG forward ended the season with a Ligue 1 winners medal but saw his side knocked out of the Champions League by eventual winners Real Madrid.

Moving to Paris

“Luckily the kids’ adaptation was great. We were always afraid that the kids would have a hard time with the move. And it was the opposite. It was very easy, they adapted very quickly to school, to their friends, to everyday life. For Antonela and me it was more difficult. I remember the first day we took them to school was terrible. We both left crying. Saying what are we doing here, what happened. We didn’t understand anything. But the truth is that the three of them were fantastic.”

Messi on the Ballon d’Or

“There are no doubts, it’s very clear that [Karim] Benzema had a brilliant year and ended up winning the Champions League, being fundamental from the last 16 onwards in every game.”

France, candidates for the 2022 World Cup

“France are an impressive team. At the time we were saying they were possible candidates and they ended up winning the World Cup. I think the shock of the European Championship made them stronger, they grew as a team. I think that for this World Cup they are going to be a team that is once again a candidate to become World Champions.”

Lionel Messi during a training session with Argentina at San Mamés on 28 May 2022 in Bilbao, Spain.
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Lionel Messi during a training session with Argentina at San Mamés on 28 May 2022 in Bilbao, Spain.Juan Manuel Serrano ArceGetty

Argentina national team

“It’s a group that plays every game as if it were a final. The coaching staff prepares for every match very well, and they know perfectly well what they are playing for and what they have to do at each moment of the match. Being a young group that is not an easy thing and this group is very clear on all of that.

“It’s a national team that can fight against anyone and that will make it difficult for any opponent, that doesn’t mean that we are the candidates to be world champions, but it does mean that we will fight against anyone because we are prepared to play against anyone and we are clear about what we want to achieve.”

Tribute to Diego Maradona

“The night before the game, I was with Antonela and I was telling her, ‘I have to do something for Diego’. And I have the museum in the house, with the trophies, shirts... so I’m going to see what’s there, I went to look for a national team shirt or something. I went upstairs and there’s a little door that’s always closed, where we put things. It was open and there was a chair, and on top was the Newell’s Old Boys shirt with the number 10 on the back. I went in and saw it. It was unbelievable. That door is always closed and I don’t know what it was really doing there, I didn’t even remember I had it. I said, ‘that’s it’.”

Argentina will face Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Poland in Group C at this year’s World Cup in Qatar. Messi was asked if he would also be part of the 2026 World Cup.

On the 2026 World Cup

“The last time I said after the World Cup that I had to rethink a lot of things and I don’t know. I’m thinking about this one [2022] and then I’ll see. Look at what happened before, I never imagined that I would end up playing somewhere other than Barcelona and within a day I had to leave. Many things can happen. Honestly, I think it’s very difficult, but I don’t know.”

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