Lionel Messi did it again: on Monday he picked up his eighth Ballon d’Or. After being proclaimed once again the best player on the planet, the Argentine footballer gave an interview to France Football in which he reviews his career, the recent World Cup won with Argentina and his relationship with Barcelona.
Starting with his past in Spain, Messi referred to the club that was his home for many years, Barcelona, and spoke about the rumors of his return to the club after leaving PSG: “I could have returned to Barcelona, but it didn’t happen. My first thought was always to return home, to be able to play at Barcelona again and retire there as I had always dreamed. But it wasn’t possible.”
Despite this, the Argentinean has fond memories of Barcelona and confesses that he continues to “watch the games” of the team coached by Xavi, Leo’s former teammate and friend: “I think the team has evolved well since Xavi’s arrival, with a mix of young players of excellent level and experienced players like Lewandowski and Kounde”.
Rivalry with Cristiano Ronaldo
The only player who comes close to him in individual awards is Cristiano Ronaldo, who has won the Ballon d’Or five times: 2008, 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2017. The two maintained for years a struggle for the conquest. Precisely, the Argentine referred to that duel: “It was a very good battle on a sporting level. We feed off each other’s rivalry, because we are both great competitors. He also always wanted to win everything, all the time. It was a very nice moment for both of us and for everyone who loves football. I think we deserve a lot of credit for being able to stay at the top for so long. It’s extremely difficult to stay at the top for ten or fifteen years.”
Tough times with the Albiceleste
Messi was proud during the interview for his record and all the trophies won throughout his career, however not winning anything with the national team for many years (until the Copa America in 2021) “was like having a thorn in my side,” confessed the Argentine.
After losing three consecutive finals with his national team (World Cup 2014, Copa America 2015 and 2016) and the elimination against France in 2018, Messi confessed to having lost hope: “I even decided to retire from the national team at one point, after the defeat in the final of the 2016 Copa America against Chile. I went through a very, very difficult moment. Because beyond that disappointment, this generation did not deserve to be treated the way it was. I think we should have valued the fact that we reached the final of the Copa America and the World Cup twice. But, at that time, the only thing that mattered to people was winning. I think the criticism we received was exaggerated.”
Qatar World Cup and controversies
Regarding the Qatar World Cup won by his national team, Messi reviewed the Albiceleste’s trajectory before lifting the trophy and all the controversy that arose. “In the days leading up to the match against the Netherlands, the Dutch started to make statements and dig us out a little bit. There were some strange situations in the game, with some players behaving in a way that was not fair play, especially during the penalty shootout. After that game, they wanted Argentina to look like the villain of the story, but a lot of things happened that night,” Leo pointed out.
Regarding his famous “What are you looking at, you fool?” after the match against the Netherlands, the Argentine star admitted that he does not like to see himself like that and that “it was wrong, but these are tense moments and it can happen”.
Messi also recalled the tough final against France in which they looked like winners, but the French team’s comeback led them to decide the trophy on penalties. “It’s a shame, because even though we were crowned world champions in the end, we deserved to be world champions at the end of regulation time,” Leo acknowledged.
On the ecstasy after the final penalty scored by teammate Montiel, Messi emotionally explained, “A thousand things went through my head. It was important for me to send a signal to my family who were in the stands, to be able to share it with them. I told them, ‘This is it, this is it!’ after waiting so long for this moment. I’ve been fighting for this dream my whole life.”
Future and end of his career
On the rumor of a possible loan to Barcelona now that MLS is over, Messi flatly denied it: “No, not at all. Now that I’ve taken a step forward by coming here to the United States, I don’t think I’ll ever play in Europe again. Of course I will miss playing Champions League or LaLiga for the rest of my life, games with a special flavor. But I enjoyed it as much as I could, so I have no frustration.”
Regarding his future and the time he has left playing football, Messi was clear: “I’ve always said that I don’t think about the future, that I go day by day. I feel good physically. I don’t know how much longer I’m going to play. I want to continue until I feel that I can’t do it anymore, that my physical condition doesn’t allow me to play as I would like to. Time will tell.”
He was not particularly optimistic about his presence at the 2026 World Cup, although he does not close the door: “Knowing how old I will be then (39 years old), it seems difficult, but we’ll see how I feel physically.”
Finally, Leo spoke about his future when he leaves professional football: “Once my football career is over, we will return to Barcelona. It is our home, where we have our habits, our friends. Whether it’s my wife, my children or me. But I have no idea what I’m going to do at the moment. I haven’t thought about it yet and I don’t want to.”