Messi talks Xavi, Koeman, Mbappe, Barcelona departure, Cristiano Ronaldo

Lionel Messi may not be a Barcelona player anymore, but talks of his return to Camp Nou continue to do the rounds.

The six-time Ballon d’Or winner left the Catalan giants this past summer, signing for PSG on a free transfer after Barça were unable to renew his contract. Since his exit though, things have changed at Camp Nou, with Ronald Koeman not at the club anymore, having been replaced as manager by club legend Xavi Hernandez.

The 41-year-old has already helped Barca re-sign one of his former teammates, Dani Alves, fueling speculations about a reunion with Andres Iniesta and Messi as well. The Argentina captain sat down with MARCA for an interview during which he addressed these speculations as well as Xavi’s appointment among various other things.

On the circumstances of his exit from Barcelona, Messi said: “I was told that I couldn’t stay, that they couldn’t renew me. I don’t know if there was something apart from the financial issue. But, I was told that they couldn’t renew me.”

Messi also spoke about the current situation at the club that resulted in Koeman’s sacking, saying: “Koeman arrived at a very difficult time at a club where important players left, but he was capable of bringing a lot of young players. As I said, the easiest thing is always to blame the coach and they know it too because that is their profession.”

However, he expressed confidence that the team will rise again from these struggles. “I have no doubt that Barcelona will come back and climb in the league table. I always want the best for Barcelona. I’m a fan, even though I don’t play there now.”

Xavi’s appointment and return to Barcelona

Speaking of Xavi being named as the new manager, Messi said: “With Xavi, Barcelona will grow, he is a coach who knows a lot and he is someone who knows the club very well. Since Xavi left, we have kept in touch. I don’t remember what I said to him in that message, I congratulated him on this new step in his career.”

“Xavi is a respected person by the fans and players, and an important figure for all the young players who are present, in addition to that, he’s a good teacher and this would be beneficial for the club,” he added.

Joan Laporta made interesting comments last week regarding a potential return of Messi and Iniesta to Camp Nou after Dani Alves had re-signed. Responding to those speculations, the Argentine international said: “Obviously, if I can contribute and help the club I would love to come back. I’ve always said that. I always said that one day I would return to Barcelona because it is my home and I will live there.”

Lionel Messi with Dani Alves and Xavi Hernandez (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Dani Alves re-signing for Barcelona

Messi spoke in detail about his former teammate Alves returning to Barcelona, stating that the move surprised him a great deal. However, he added that he would be an excellent role model for the club’s youngsters to look up to.

“The truth is, the arrival of Dani Alves surprised me, especially at this time. I think it will be a good addition, like Xavi, he will be important for young players,” he said. “Alves will help the team to grow, he has a winner mentality, he will help the youngsters on and off the field.”

Mbappe to Real Madrid?

During the interview, Messi also spoke about his current PSG teammate Kylian Mbappe. The pair seem to have struck up a good rapport since the veteran forward made the switch to France. However, the partnership might not last beyond this season as Mbappe has been linked with a move to Real Madrid.

When asked if the Frenchman was indeed headed to Barca’s eternal rivals, Messi said: “The truth is that I don’t know, Only he knows what he will do. All I can say is that I am happy that he is here. He’s an important player for us to fight for this season’s goals.”

However, the ex-Barcelona captain did add that Mbappe spoke Spanish fluently, along with other languages. “He speaks it perfectly, he speaks well in all languages: Spanish, English and French,” he said.

Rivalry with Cristiano Ronaldo

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo at the Ballon d’Or Gala in 2015 (Photo by Philipp Schmidli/Getty Images)

The rivalry between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo during their time at Barcelona and Real Madrid, respectively, was the stuff of legends. However, the pair have not directly competed against each other in league football since 2019, when Ronaldo left Madrid for Juventus. He has since signed for Manchester United this year, while Messi left Barca for PSG.

Asked whether he missed competing with the Portuguese international, Messi said: “We’ve been competing individually and as a team in the same league for a long time. We had the same objectives, the stage was great for us and the fans. It is a beautiful memory that will remain in football history.”

The six-time Ballon d’Or winner also praised his arch-rival, hailing the impact he had made at Manchester United since returning. “Manchester United is a very strong team with many great players. Cristiano already knows the club, now he is adapting admirably. From the start, he scored goals as usual and he has no problems adapting,” he stated.

Sergio Ramos – From rivals to teammates

Messi, during his time at Barcelona, forged a strong rivalry with Sergio Ramos. The pair crossed paths numerous times during their illustrious careers but were always on the opposite sides. However, this past summer saw them become teammates at PSG.

Speaking about it, Messi said: “At first it was strange after several years of competition, being the leaders of Barcelona & Real Madrid and after several Clásicos and fights on the field, but everything that happened at that time remained on the pitch; we always respected each other.”

La Liga title favourites?

Messi was also quizzed about who he thought would win the La Liga this season. The former Barcelona skipper named Real Madrid as a strong favourite, along with reigning champions Atletico Madrid, but warned against dismissing the Catalans.

“Real Madrid is always competing, the same goes for Atletico Madrid. Barcelona is going through a phase of rebuilding, with several young players. I think there are better clubs than Barcelona, but this does not mean that they will be excluded in the future. With the arrival of Xavi and the recovery of some players, they can grow and fight,” he said.

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