Best Soccer Player in The World Lionel Messi Talks Ronaldo, World Cup, and Hanging in the Cockpit

We sat down with the Argentine footballer ahead of the new Barcelona season and he nutmegged the crap out of us.

Photo: Getty Images | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2013

You have a hormone deficiency that prevented you from growing quickly enough – didn’t it nearly stop you from going pro?

No club in Argentina wanted to pay for my [hormone] injections – and my father worked three jobs – but they were very expensive and we still couldn’t afford them. Then, Barcelona offered to pay for my treatment – and I have never looked back.

Barcelona’s youth academy La Masia has produced some fantastic players. What is their secret?

Of course the football values they install in us are obvious for all to see – but they teach us so much more there. Like respect, and to be a decent person. From the first day you are told if you want to be the best then stay out the nightclubs!

You have won so much already – how do you stay motivated?

No matter what you achieve, every season is a new season. What you achieved the season before is no longer relevant. I never look back at what I have achieved because I am always looking at the future. I can look back at what I have achieved when I am retired – but until then it is all about focus.

What’s next for this Barcelona team?

We have a new coach now and want success this season. It was sad circumstances the way Tito had to leave – but everybody is behind the new coach. We want success this season in Spain and in Europe.

How do you cope with opponents trying to foul you all the time? Is it easy to keep your cool?

I have always had the same style of play – and you cannot spend all the game worrying about being kicked. I just get on with my game and let the referees do their job.

Photo: Getty Images | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2013

How are excited are you for The World Cup in Brazil next year?

It is the top level for any player to be playing at. It is important that I achieve success with my country as well as Barcelona. You know as a player that you won’t have many opportunities to play in World Cups – so you have to take them when you can.

What chance do you think Argentina has and who will be your main competition?

Spain has been the team to beat now for the last 5 or 6 years and they will be very strong again. Brazil will feel confident playing at home – and I also expect Germany to be very strong.

Do you really have a rivalry with Ronaldo over who is the best player in the world?

Not at all. He is a good guy and a great player who can change any game. He is doing his thing though – and I am just fully concentrated on success with Barcelona.

For one of the most famous sportsmen on the planet, you have a pretty low-key lifestyle, don’t you?

It is not coincidence that at Barcelona we have low-key lifestyles and we have been successful. We know we are football players and not movie stars. We don’t want to live the lifestyle of a movie star. If we are not training or playing then we are just at home with our families.

What do you do to relax?

I have a son now so I love to play with him. Otherwise I am at home with my friends and family doing regular stuff like watching movies and playing video games.

You are one of the highest paid athletes in the world, but you are famous for saying you love the sport so much that you would play for nothing. Come on – really?

Of course money takes that worry out of your life and enables you to provide for your family – but if it was playing professional football for free or choose another living, then I would choose football every time.

You are sponsored by Dolce and Gabbana; who is the most stylish player at Barcelona?

Gerard Pique (Shakira’s partner, FYI) is a really fashionable guy. He is used to doing photo shoots.

What is the craziest thing a fan has ever done?

I was on a flight from Argentina to Venezuela and I was spotted even though I got on first. The cabin crew got me into the cockpit and I spent most of the journey kicking back with the pilot.

You have an army of fans all over the world. What country has given you the best welcome?

The reception I got in India was crazy. It is not even their first sport and I came out their airport late at night and there were thousands of fans wearing Messi jerseys. It was so humbling.

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