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Messi: I prefer to win titles with the team rather than individual awards

by Tom Conn | Posted on Monday, October 1st, 2012

 Barcelona striker, Leo Messi recently sat down for an in-depth interview and answered questions about his hopes for the future, the hopes for his son coming in less than a month, and of course, the role Barcelona has played in forming who he is as a player and as a person.

Photo Courtesy of El Pais

In the interview with Spanish newspaper, El Pais, Messi reviews both his past and his future.

Q: Do you feel you have given back to Barcelona what they gave you as a child?

A: No, I don`t know…I always wanted to show my commitment to the club.  At first, perhaps more noticeably, now it`s common.  This is my home, my club.  I owe everything to Barca, and as I’ve always said, I’m happy here.

Q: You say you`re not concerned about how many goals you can score, but prefer titles, is there anything that especially worries you?

A: Yes, I prefer to win titles with the team rather than individual awards or score more goals than anyone.  I worry more about being a good person than being the best player in the world.  In addition, at the end, when this is over, what you get? My intention is that when I retire, I’m remembered for being a good guy.  I like to score goals, but also to have friends among the people who I’ve played.  It`s good to be appreciated as a person, that they have a good opinion of you beyond scoring a lot of goals.

Q: Do you worry about winning your fourth Ballon d`Or?

A: The awards are good.  I thank them, of course, but deep down, people are more worried about it, they are always asking if this is better than that.  Xavi or Iniesta?? Who knows??  All I can say is that I wouldn`t be able to play either of their positions. My luck is that I’ve fallen into this club, in which there are great players.  They`ve given me everything: the awards, titles, goals, everything.  This is a team that has made history for everything they`ve won.  I have the luck to play here and with Argentina, where I also have great players.  This is fundamental.  For me, I make the team better, sure, but without the help of my teammates, it wouldn`t be anything, I`d gain nothing, no titles or awards, nothing.

Q:  What makes you angry?

A: I hate to lose.  In life? Poverty.  I come from a country where it is very noticeable.  There are many young people who have no choice but to take to the streets and beg or work for whatever small amount they can.

Q: You will be a parent.  Has that changed your approach to things?

A: Yes, you start seeing things in a different way.  I no longer think of just myself.  You think about him, he doesn`t ever have any problems, about anything.  If you change, of course the idea of things changes.

Q: Your style of play, do you work at it, do you train that way?

A: No, I don`t know…I played like this as a kid.

Q: That`s what Tito Vilanova says

A: What?

Q: He says that, to his own surprise, you the same you did when you were a kid, but now amongst the best in the world, not amongst kids under 14.

A: My style of play has not changed much.  It`s true, I’ve obviously learned a lot more about the game.  It helped me come to Barcelona and work in this way at [La Masia’].  Just yesterday I was watching seven-year-old kids training and the way they are taught is different from anywhere in the world.  When you`re little, they teach you to play the ball, take care of it, the tactics, and understand the game.  Now the kids play the same as us! It never ceases to amaze me.

Q: They say that when you learned Tito Vilanova would be the replacement for Pep Guardiola, that you just smile, and that smile reassured the club.

A: Yes, it`s possible I smiled when I heard the news that Tito was the replacement for Pep.  I’ve known him since childhood and we had five years with him and Pep.  I felt that I could do very well.  Look, Tito was the first one who got me playing time, because up until that point I was a sub or didn`t play and he wanted to make me a starter on the youth team.  I know him, he`s a normal person and open.  He says things to your face without a problem, I like that.

Q: Do you remember your first match in Barcelona`s youth system?

A: No, but I remember soon after I hurt my leg.

Q:  Is it true that Pique defended you when you got kicked?

A: Yes, he was the big one and we were all little ones. Daddy defended us all!

Q:  Did you guys agree to all become fathers at the same time so you could take then to the park?

A: No! It was coincidence.  We all got there at the same time [Pique, Pedro, Villa, Valdes].  It is a sign that we are getting older and have more responsibility.  A very cute responsibility.

Q:  You never seem to settle for just one goal, you expect to have a large family, right? Will we see a hat-trick?

A: No, I don`t know…the more the better.  Whatever comes!

Q: Do you talk a lot on the field?

A: No, not much [laughs]

Father: Opponents and referees would disagree…

A: Ah! With opponents and referees I talk more, with teammates not so much.  We`ve played together for so long that we understand with just one look.

Father: And the fight with Villa? It wasn`t a locker room incident?

A: I said I don`t look for problems where there are none, there`s nothing here.  It is a locker room that functions better than any in all of sports, it`s spectacular.  We’ve been together for some time, but it turns out the humanity is great.  No one can know what kind of fun we have, and after so many years, it`s not easy.

Q: That`s the best?

A: No, the best thing about this team is that we going into games in the same way we did five years ago, we always have the ball, it`s ours.  And, above all, the best thing about the team is the ambition and desire we have to keep winning things.  After all we`ve won, you lose a game in training and you get heated.  That`s the best, our ambition.

Q: Is this the path Pep set?

A: Yes, Pep set the path and we followed it.  It was he who made us play with the desire to take the lead, always go for the goal. He gave us the attitude and belief that we would win.  It was spectacular.  Beyond what he knew as a coach, he was a phenomenon by analyzing teams and how they prepared.  I don`t expect to see another coach like him.

Q: Rijkaard was the first.  Are you still angry at him for not letting you play in the final in Paris?

A: I practically owe him everything.  It was he who trusted me, who let me make my debut as a boy and carried me in every moment.  He left me out [of the final] and although I didn`t like it and didn`t know why, I later understood.

Q:  With Rijkaard you scored your first goal against Madrid…well…three…

A: It was spectacular.  We tied it up, which put us in first, then came the other goals, but yes, those are unforgettable.

Q: What is the match against Madrid that you remember the most?

A: I remember all we won.  It is the most beautiful to beat Madrid, it`s transcending.  They are a terrific team.  Maybe I’ll put the semi-final of the Champions up there, for the significance.

Q: And to score goals against Casillas.  Do you get on poorly or what?

A: No, the opposite.  I was luck to score in the last ‘Clasico’. I hope it continues.  Iker is a great goalkeeper, one of the best.  I’ve scored goals, but he`s stopped many, many goals.  He`s very good and very fast.

Q: Are matches against Mourinho`s Madrid especially hard?

A: Every game is different.  All are tough.  Against Madrid, for the significance, for the quality of their players, it makes it harder, but they are all hard.  At Granada, we couldn`t get a goal until the 85th minute and against Spartak we almost lost.  It is increasingly difficult.

Q:  What do you admire about Madrid?

A: I like to play at the Bernabeu.  It`s a great club with a great history.

Q:  Mourinho`s team?

A: Madrid, on the counter, kills you.  They have extremely fast forwards and their connection between defense and attack lasts five second and they score.  They do not need to play well in order to score three goals.  They have many situations for their players, they are very good.  I have the good fortune of knowing Higuain and di Maria.  If Pipa is not marked, he can score two goals on two touches. Out of nowhere, Madrid can score on you.

Q:  What do you think of Mourinho?

A: I can`t say. I don`t know, I’ve never spoken to him. I can only speak about what he`s got, which is a lot, a lot of titles.  I know their players speak well of him, but I don`t know him.

Father:  Mourinho says that Barca football is boring and that of the Spanish team is defensive.

A: Si?

Q: That said, at the meeting of the UEFA coaches:  “They play with four defenders and six midfielders.  Not attacking football.  It tires and bores people.”

A: Spain plays almost like us.  You cannot remove the ball and for a player it`s terrific if you play with them.  I played against Spain and ran behind the ball without gaining power.  It happened in Madrid, Murcia…In Argentina it was something else. But I’ve never run so much without having the ball as I did when I played Spain.

Q:  Where does Argentina stand?

A: Sabella has made things clear, he knows what he wants and he transmits it.  He has new people and I think we`re on the right track.

Q: Is your dream to win the World Cup in two years?

A: I`d really love to, it would mean a lot to Argentina and to me.

Father:  Is there anything you’ve seen in football lately that you`ve liked?

A: To see the kids training at the La Masia.  I’m surprised to see it, how the club works.  They are so small and play that way….you go to other places and they don`t do these things, just here.  So, I like watching the kids.

Father: An Italian journalist said that trying to interview you is like defenses that try to mark you, “You prepare everything, you try to know where to go, what to do, you feel ready in the end, and in the end, he escapes”.

A: And he was thinking, “in the end I got nothing.” [Laughs].  No, I always say what I think, but I feel no need to get into trouble.  I’m not interested in finding problems or conflict.  It’s not my idea or way I am.  I see no point in speaking ill or people who don`t know anything about me, that have only seen you play. I prefer to be respectful of others, that`s it.  And you try, eh…but I don`t want to get into that.

Father:  Are you ticklish

A: No, I’m not ticklish.

You can find the entire interview, in Spanish, here.

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