Lionel Messi met with El Gráfico, a prominent magazine in South America, to discuss the realities of football, his habits, his friendship with Suárez and Neymar, and a possible future in Argentina.

Beyond the fact that you have two superstars as teammates in the forward line, the feeling is that you’re good friends and you get along great with Suárez and Neymar. Is it like that?

Yes, the truth is that we have a very good relationship on and off the field, we get along very well.

To the point where when all three of you don’t score you feel you’re missing something and you let Neymar take a penalty if you and Suárez both scored?

We try to work for the team and it’s good that all of us feel important. Confidence is the best thing for that.

There were forwards in past years who didn’t feel all that comfortable and ended up leaving the club, but with Suárez and Neymar it seems as if you’ve been friends all your lives. Why does this special connection exist?

The truth is that I don’t know, it’s something that comes naturally and it’s not like the forwards who left didn’t have this feeling. We’re human and maybe the fact that we’re all from South America makes us closer, I don’t know.

Besides that, you’re from three countries that have historic football rivalries. Do you joke about these things?

No, like I said, we work for Barça and there’s no rivalry. We’re professionals, when each of us represents his country, things change, but there’s no rivalry or confrontation.

Did Filipe Luis’ kick scare you? It’s not usual that you receive such hit that high up, to the knee…

These are plays that happen but there was no intention of hurting anyone, although it’s clear that the rules don’t allow excesses.

Did it upset you that he received such a light suspension (three games) and that it was then reduced?

No, because the committees judge these things and I don’t think there was any ill intent from anyone.

Does it bother you that some rivals still have these kinds of interventions (I can add the moment where Espanyol’s goalkeeper stepped on you) at this point in your career where everyone knows you and knows who you are and how you play?

I don’t like talking about things that happen on the pitch, the images often show things that are hard to determine exactly and in the ones that are clear you can’t know what intention there was, so why create any polemic about it?

At the last Ballon d’Or gala there were some interactions between you and Cristiano. Although you said that you were never enemies do you feel like you’ve gotten closer recently despite the rivalry between your two clubs?

This is what I was saying: We’re professionals and we defend our team and we’re rivals on the pitch, nothing more than that. Sometimes we win and sometimes we lose. There wasn’t anything other than respect between us.

Do you watch games at home or are you less interested because of all the games you play?

Yes, I try to watch all the games I can.

Do you watch games from the Argentine league?

I watch the important games when I can, it’s difficult with the difference in time zones.

In the Argentine league the football isn’t good, it’s ruled by a lack of organization, by barras bravas, it’s all chaos, and yet in the last years Milito, Maxi Rodriguez, Tevez, D’Alessandro, Denis, or Osvaldo have returned to play here. How does it look from the outside?

Ideas get renewed and little by little we’ll see football being played better and it will raise its level, with players who come from other leagues and bring different experiences from there. Regarding the fact that it’s played to the limit, I don’t see it quite that way, maybe it’s more about motivation in some games, but not all the time. And about the chaos that you mentioned, it’s true that there should be normalization so that there’s no insecurity at games, but that takes consciousness and work from the authorities to make people understand that it’s supposed to be a show for everyone, not just the fans of a team.

Do you have the wish to someday play in your country’s league where you never even got to make your debut?

I’ve always said it: It’s something that I still have pending and I’d like to be able to do it.

When you say that maybe before the end of your career you’ll play in Argentina do you really see that possible in eight or 10 years?

I don’t know when, but it is a possibility, although I don’t like speculating about the future.

I know that it’s difficult to predict the future and you can’t know how much injuries will respect you, but until what age do you see yourself playing? Or until what age would you want to play?

I don’t set myself a goal regarding this, but I’d like to play for as long as my body allows me and I can help my team. When I know it’s the end I’ll make the decision.

This year you’ll surely surpass Batistuta and end up being the maximum goalscorer in the national team’s history. You always note the collective achievements above the individual ones but were you aware of this? Does it matter to you?

No, I’d rather win something important with the national team even if it is with an own goal from the opposing team. I don’t care about the records, even though they’re there, but they don’t make you win trophies.

Do you still remember that finish against Neuer in the final of the World Cup in Brazil, when the ball went just wide?

I try to forget losses, I prefer to remember the good things and look ahead.

Do you blame yourself for anything or do you feel like the ball just didn’t want to go in?

I don’t blame myself for anything and I don’t blame anyone else either, because we all gave everything we had in order to reach the final and win it and I feel very proud of having shared that World Cup with those players.

How a play changes everything, right? It happened in the World Cup final with some bad finishes and in the Copa América final with that counter in the 93rd minute. Is this hard to accept for a footballer?

As I said, we don’t have to look at one play or one player, we don’t have to look to blame people for this. The team gave everything it could and it couldn’t win.

Did the loss of the Copa América final affect you more than the World Cup loss? People said that they saw you crying a few times in Chile. Was it like that?

Everything that we lose with the national team distresses me, because I know that we should have won. At the World Cup and at the Copa América we did enough for that.

When a certain part of the press critiques you in an exaggerated way, like after the Copa América, does it affect you or are you immune by now?

I don’t worry about that. I’m not preoccupied with what a certain sector of the press says. I’m worried about the fact that a match isn’t analyzed from the perspective of the game and that certain people are crucified for one determined play.

When you hear these types of criticisms do you feel like most people think that way or that it’s just some journalists that make noise?

The media shape opinions and sometimes fanaticism overcomes the journalist.

Do you think that the only way people will stop criticizing you this much is if you win a World Cup, that only then will this discussion end?

People are free to criticize what they feel is wrong and I will respect that.

How many World Cups do you imagine you have left to play?

I don’t know, hopefully several.

Did you think that River would put more pressure on Barça in the final of the Club World Cup or did the game turn out like you were expecting?

River did what they had to do, they have a great team.

Did it surprise you to see how many River fans were in the stadium and in Japan, given your experience with previous Club World Cups?

Yes, it surprised me to see how many there were, although I knew there would be a lot.

What about your teammates? Did anyone make a comment regarding this?

They all know River and logic dictated that there would be a lot, because Argentine fans travel with their teams.

You said you didn’t celebrate the goal because you saw the fans and felt bad about their sacrifice, but against Estudiantes in 2009 you celebrated it a lot. Why was it different?

There were different moments.

When I saw your gesture toward the fans I thought you were asking for forgiveness for touching the ball with your hand before scoring. Was that also a factor?

No, not at all, because it never occurred to me that the ball had touched my arm. I did it for the reason I said.

Did you ease off the accelerator after the 3-0? It seemed that you didn’t want to humiliate River like you did some time after with Valencia for example…

International games are like that, you never want to be disrespectful with anyone. We weren’t with River and we weren’t with Valencia either, what happens is that each game turns out like it does…

That night you also had a nice gesture with Barovero when he saved one of your chances. Why did you do that?

Normally if I’m close to the goalkeeper I do it, and the save Barovero made was worthy of congratulations.

Did you talk with Gallardo before and after the game?

Yes, we talked about normal things that are discussed after games, but nothing to comment on now.

After the game you had a River shirt around your neck. Did you take more?

Yes, some.

You’re not one to go into dressing rooms to ask for shirts, in general they send them to you, right?

The truth is that they send them to me. This time they came to our dressing room and I stepped out to talk to some players and exchanged shirts and River’s president was there too and I spent some minutes with him.

I’m asking you this because a lot of River fans were pleasantly shocked to see these gestures from you and they got excited thinking that maybe someday you’ll wear their shirt before retiring. Is it crazy to think that?

Everyone knows that my heart belongs to Newell’s and I don’t know if I’ll be able to play in my country someday, but if I can, I hope I will do it with Newell’s.

Didn’t Masche try to convince you to play for River? Because he made Piqué a River fan.

Not at all, he could do it with Piqué because he’s Spanish.

Do you miss Argentina every now and again? Do you want to live in your country after so many years in Spain or not?

Yes, of course I miss it, even though I’ve spent more than half my life living in Barcelona.

When things like the story of the Afghan child with the plastic bag shirt happen, do they surprise you? Do they serve as a way of understanding what you generate around the world?

These are things that touch you because there are a lot of situations similar to this one.

Do you feel the passing of years when you’re on the pitch? Is there something you did before that you now struggle with?

No, honestly I don’t.

Does Thiago play with the ball or is he not interested?

Yes, he kicks some balls around.

Right footed or left footed?

Seems like he’s right footed.

You said that when you go to play he asks you if you’re going to the goal again. When you got back with the Ballon d’Or what did he say?

He’s very young still, he doesn’t understand these things.

What’s the name of the dog Antonella got you?

Thiago named him Hulk.

Do you still have time for your siesta or do the kids not let you sleep?

I still do, as always.

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