international football

Lionel Messi on Neymar joining Real Madrid, Argentina’s World Cup chances and more

The Argentine admitted that he wouldn’t want to see his former team mate Neymar join rivals Real Madrid, saying it would be a huge blow for Barcelona.

How much does Argentina’s final loss at the 2014 Fifa World Cup weigh him down? What if Neymar goes to Real Madrid? Who does he thinks are favourites in Russia?

Lionel Messi’s interview with Argentina’s TyC Sports touched on a couple of topics that many football fans around the world would have wanted to know more about.

The Barcelona forward’s answers seem both measured and straightforward in the translated interview. He admitted that he wouldn’t want to see his former team mate Neymar join rivals Real Madrid, saying it would be a huge blow to the Catalan team and make the Zinedine Zidane-led team even stronger.

“It would be terrible [if Neymar moved to Madrid] because of everything he means to Barcelona. Ney won important trophies here. He won the Champions League and La Liga titles. It would be a huge blow for everyone. It would make Madrid even stronger from a football point of view,” Messi was quoted as saying by ESPN.

Asked whether he had given the Brazilian any advice on the matter, he simply said, “I speak with him, so he already knows what I think.”

Neymar had left the La Liga champions last year after four years to join PSG in a world-record €222 million deal, but hasn’t had the best of debut seasons after being knocked out by Real Madrid in the Champions League and being out for months with a foot injury.

Messi also believes that with a soon-to-be fit Neymar at the forefront, Brazil will be favourites at the upcoming Fifa World Cup in Russia next month.

“As a group, they work well, and they have great individuals. They can kill you on the counterattack with players like Ney, [Philippe] Coutinho, Gabriel Jesus and Paulinho. They know what they’re doing. They’re a well-tuned unit. They’re one of the teams that could win the World Cup,” he was quoted as saying.

Speaking of the World Cup, the Argentine himself had a tough time, first losing in the finals to Germany for years back and then struggling to qualify for this edition, before a superlative individual performance from the No 10 pulled his team through.

Now, the 30-year-old is hungry for success at what could be his last shot at the trophy. Argentina have not won a major international title since the Copa America in 1993, coming close on three occasions – finals of the 2014 World Cup and the Copa in 2015 and 2016. Messi admitted that it was a weight the team carried and want to overcome it.

“We deserve to be there because of our history although it cost us a lot in the last World Cups to reach to those rounds, but we have to be there again. It’s more of a desire because of everything we’ve gone through, rather than an obligation. We’re the first to want to be champions in Russia,” he was quoted as saying by Marca.

He also insisted that he is not competing with Cristiano Ronaldo, despite their rivalry being on of modern football’s greatest.

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