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07.10.2008 10:58

Messi: “Guardiola is just like another player”

Marc Guillén

An ambitious Leo Messi says he wants to win one or more titles this season with Barça. The Argentine also says he is comfortable with the rotation policy and system used by Guardiola, who he thinks “is just like another player”.

xakhtar-fcb_x8x.jpgBefore leaving for Argentina on international duty, Leo Messi talked about what is going on at Barcelona and how he wants to win titles in an interview with Barça TV and www.fcbarcelona.cat. The Argentine is full of praise for Barça’s academy system and his new team-mate on the right Dani Alves, plus he also reveals what Guardiola asks him to do on the pitch.

How would you assess the start of the season under Josep Guardiola?

“Extremely good. At first because of the results we had to change a lot of things, but I think that’s normal because he was new, and in the last few matches we’ve played a lot better.”

Is Guardiola different as a coach who focuses on the mental preparation and motivation of his players?

sessio240708_x4x.jpg“Yeah, that’s the most important thing. He’s very close to the players and is just like another squad member, another player. He stays close to us and is always giving us instructions and showing us what he wants. And of course we’re trying to take it all on board so we can do the best we can.”

What does Guardiola ask you to do on the pitch?

“The same as everyone else. He likes to put pressure on opponents up front as an organised group. We do a lot of work on tactics, but when we play he gives me a lot of freedom, although I still need to fit in with the game plan.”

You came up through the academy and now there are lots of academy players in the first team. Is that just a coincidence?

“I can tell you from my own experience that Barça has been working hard on its academy for years. It’s producing lots of players and you only have to see how good the ones in Barça Atlètic and lower down are. They work in the same way as the first team and do similar training sessions. That’s why a lot of them are in the first team and I reckon many more will come up that way too.”

You have a new team-mate on the right in Alves. Do you two understand each other on the pitch?

QM3D3670.jpg“Both on and off the pitch. I was especially pleased we signed him because he’s a great player and plays on my side of the pitch. It’s always easy to understand great players. Plus we’ve got on really well since he’s been here, and even though I’m Argentine I’ve always got on well with Brazilians so there’s no problem there.”

What do the players think of Guardiola’s rotations policy?

“I think it’s a good one, because all of us get to play. We have a lot of games this season and it’s great if the entire squad is ready to play at any time. That motivates people because you never know who’s going to be on the team sheet. New lads are always coming in and it’s good to be focussed for the next game in case it’s your turn to play.”

This year you’ve often played just behind the front line, but that’s not new for you.

medalla_messi_02_x1x.jpg“No, in the youth sides I often played there but it was a little different as I had a point of reference ahead of me. I like playing there. I like starting from a little further back and pressing through. I’m happy there but I’ll always play where the boss tells me to.”

You offered to be one of the team captains. Are you more involved than ever now?

“I’ve always been involved. The issue of the captains came up, they asked me and I said the same as everyone else. Anyone would like to be a captain but I also knew there were other lads with more experience who deserved the job. That’s how it turned out and I believe that the squad is really involved and wants to win titles.”
Messi: “Guardiola is just like another player”
Game, injuries and penalties
Should this be your season?

“I hope it’s Barça’s season. We haven’t won anything for two years and we’ve always been close, and I hope that this time round we can win something and if we can get more than one, so much the better.”

Do you still need to improve your game?

“Yeah, you always have to improve. I say we never stop learning and I really believe that. I think I have room for improvement all round.”

After two years with no titles, was going to the Olympics and winning a confidence-booster for you?

“You bet. Winning is always good and motivating. If you win things you want to win more. I came back from Beijing very happy and determined to get more of the same.”

Did the fact that Guardiola let you go to the Games mean you are even more committed on your return?

“He had a lot to do with it and I thanked him at the time. It went well for me and so I’m grateful to him for giving me the chance.”

Do you do anything special to reduce the risk of injury?

“Yes, but I did in other seasons as well. You always try to prevent injury but you never know. I hope I don’t get any more, but we have lots of games so my team-mates and I always run the risk of getting injured.”

Have you learnt to listen to your body?

“I’ve been learning. Injuries have also helped me to grow and to know when I can and when I can’t. The club doctors are helping me here.”

You’ve been a penalty taker since last year alongside Eto'o. Did you take them in the academy?

“Yes, I did. When I got into the first team Ronaldinho was here and obviously he took them. When he was missing I had the chance to take them and I wasn’t worried about it.”

Do you decide where to put it before you shoot or do you wait to see which way the keeper goes?

“Normally I look at the keeper and try to wait until he goes one way or the other. However I’ve also chosen one side just in case he doesn’t commit himself.”

How have you changed from when you made your League debut four years ago at Montjuic?

“I’ve changed in lots of ways, especially in the way I am in the dressing room. Now I’m a lot more confident with my team-mates and they are with me as well.”

You’ve been in Barcelona for 13 years. Is Catalonia now your home as well?

“Yeah, I always say that. I’ve experienced a lot in Barcelona. I came here when I was very young and I’ve always said that I feel at home here.”

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