Ahead of this month’s Copa América, Lionel Messi tackles Champions League vs World Cup, club vs country and his rivalry with a certain Galáctico
How does it feel to go straight from the Champions League final to the Copa América? How do the competitions compare?
As a player, you want to be playing in such big competitions, it is not about comparing them. The objective of Barcelona is to win every competition it enters, and the same is true for Argentina.
How does El Clásico compare to Argentina vs Brazil?
They are two of the biggest games in the world. It isn’t just what it means to the players, but you can sense in the stadium; what it means to the fans.
Is the Copa América just between Argentina and Brazil?
Not at all. Ourselves and Brazil are very strong, but Colombia showed at the World Cup how strong they are, Uruguay have big players, and Chile will be strong at home. Many teams have a chance to win.
Olympics aside, Argentina haven’t won a trophy for more than 20 years – has there been a decline in that time?
We’ve had some great teams since we last won a trophy, but have gone too long without winning. We came close in Brazil, but the World Cup is behind us now. The objective is to win Copa América.
Will you consider your career complete if you never lift the World Cup?
It is the ultimate goal in football, and it is still a dream I have. So many of my teammates at Barcelona have won it, and it is a dream to one day know what that feeling is like.
Some say the Champions League is a greater test than the World Cup. How do you see it?
They are both big tests. The difference is that with the World Cup you know you don’t get another chance for four years.
There’s a photograph of you looking at the World Cup trophy after the defeat against Germany. What went through your mind?
You move on from a defeat like that because you have to, but that loss will be a regret for all the players for the rest of our lives. You think about the chances we had that we didn’t take. I was not consolable after the final.
Argentina is constantly blessed with world-class footballers – is there any reason why England can’t produce those players?
I am not sure that it is true. If you look at the technical ability of a player like Wayne Rooney, he is as good as any player in Europe.
Which British players would thrive in La Liga right now?
As I mentioned, Rooney has exceptional quality. Not just great technical ability, but also works very hard for his team. I’m sure Manchester United will never
want to let him leave, though.
Arsenal tried to sign you when you were young. What sort of player would you have become in the Premier League?
It is hard to say, because my education would have been very different to what I have had at Barcelona, but the Premier League is obviously one of the best and most competitive in Europe.
What do you like or dislike about playing English or Scottish clubs in the Champions League?
Nothing at all. They are always big games against English clubs, and Celtic is always a pleasure to play at because their fans create one of the most special atmospheres.
What do you practise and how do you develop certain tricks?
So much goes into what we do at Barca, it is no accident that we play the way we do. From the players who were brought through La Masia [Barca’s youth academy], you are taught the Barcelona philosophy from day one.
Were you taught any of your skills and tricks by Ronaldinho?
When I walked into the Barca dressing room as a 16-year-old, he was the best player in the world. He helped me settle; he is a great player but also a great guy. The way he played, Barcelona fans fell in love with him right away.
What’s the longest you’ve gone without scoring and how did it affect you mentally?
You always want to score, but it does not mean everything. You look at Luis [Suárez] early in the season, and he was not scoring many goals, but making so many and working so hard for the team. Now he is scoring goals for fun. As long as I am performing well for the team, and we are getting the right results, that is what matters.
Have you seen the videos on the internet inspired by the way you went round Jérôme Boateng for that goal against Bayern? What did your teammates think?
The players at Barcelona are very close, and always congratulate me on a good performance, but I could not perform the way I do without such great players around me.
Do you consider yourself as having a rivalry with Ronaldo? Is that a good motivation?
There is no rivalry. It’s something the media invented. We both want to do well for our clubs, it is not Messi vs Ronaldo, it never has been.
Do you wish you’d have played senior football in Argentina before moving to Barcelona?
Barcelona gave me everything, they took a chance on me when nobody else would. I never have any desire to play for anybody else, I will be here for as long as they want me.
Do you still play video games online with strangers? When you play football games do you always have the same skill and flair you show in real life?
I like to win beautifully, in reality and online!
The Copa América starts on 11 June