Last year was uncharacteristically down for Lionel Messi, even after the world’s best player carried Argentina on his shoulders to the World Cup final.
But a subdued performance didn’t help as Germany sealed victory. That meant the Messi-Maradona debate will continue.
But Messi was unstoppable for Barca, carrying the Catalans to the treble. The Copa America can add to his list of triumphs. In this e-mail interview, the diminutive great sums up the season and his outlook.
How much has the World Cup final loss contributed to your incredible performances this year?
Losing the final was a big, big blow. I wanted to win it for Argentines everywhere and I was very upset afterwards.
But being a professional means moving on from low moments quickly. If you miss a chance, you can’t dwell on it – you need to think you are going to score the next one.
So, you want to use the anger and disappointment as motivation. But mainly it’s about putting it out of your mind and remaining positive.
Rate your partnership with Suarez and Neymar at Barcelona?
I’m lucky. I’ve played with so many wonderful forwards over the years. I had a great connection with Ronaldinho. I played with Samuel Eto’o, Thierry Henry, Pedro, David Villa, Alexis! We all played differently together, but each player had fantastic assets.
It’s not always forwards that give you the most assists — look at Dani Alves, he creates lots of chances for me.
Is this the most complete attacking force you’ve played with?
Neymar and Suarez are at the top of their games. We have only been together for one season, so there is still work to do.
If we can all play at our best, bring out the best in each other, it can only be good for Barcelona. We all offer something different, make each other better.
Do you think you will eventually move into midfield?
I am open to playing in any position. A lot of players drop deeper when they move into the later stages of their career, and that’s certainly an option for me.
I have played in midfield a lot already, and I cover a lot of ground there. There are many players who have prolonged their careers by playing in a different position, where maybe you don’t rely on being so explosive all the time.
What was it like playing against Pep Guardiola’s Bayern?
It’s quite odd seeing him in the opposition dugout. I will always be grateful for what he did for me, how he developed me as a player, the teams he built.
But when you play against somebody, you freeze those personal feelings out. It is all about winning.
Which club outside La Liga appeals the most?
Pep is doing great things with Bayern and is creating a team similar to the one he had at Barcelona.
He is always trying new things, and that is good for football. We want strong competition within Europe, so I am happy Pep is creating another powerhouse.
Juventus have also done brilliantly this season.
What do you credit your hunger for success to?
Motivation is not something I struggle with. I love playing football, being in training; day to day life is fantastic.
When you have success, you just want to repeat it. I want to achieve as much as possible with this team.
What still motivates you? Trophies, goals, records?
I don’t look at records; that’s not why I play. Goals, of course. Every player in my position wants to score. But most of all trophies.
My target is always to win trophies for Barcelona. Nothing feels better than doing that as a team.
Who is the best player in Barcelona training?
It is so hard to say. Xavi and Iniesta, they have been at the heart of this club for so long. They were right up there with the best trainers.
Who is the laziest in training? Nobody! You can’t be lazy at Barcelona training.
(Lionel Messi is an Adidas athlete)