I met the four great Kings of football, and the only person I needed to meet was Lionel Messi. And the meeting finally happened on Monday at Ezeiza, where Argentina train. I was delighted he made it safely after the problems his plane had landing. It couldn't touch down in Ezeiza or in Rosario, but was able to safely land in Aeroparque.
There was a bit of concern about his landing, but once he arrived at the training complex, everyone's face changed. Lionel was affectionate with everyone, even with me, who he had not met before. He greeted his teammates one by one, the coaching staff, the medical team and even the security team and the cleaning staff. That speaks a lot about his humility and his quality with people. I said to him: "Finally I get the chance to meet you," and he gave me a hug. Now we're going to try and learn together, chatting about football and sharing experiences. My concern is that he rests well. This summer's objectives at the Copa America will be achieved with patience, not getting wrapped up in the hysteria.
I must say that we spoke more about Barcelona than Argentina in this first meeting. I could see he was hurting. And very aware of the complex situation the club is going throuugh after failing to win the Champions League. He's also struggling to take in the painful defeat against Liverpool. I could see he was upset. I tried to calm him down by saying that while he's given so much to Barça with his quality, these things can happen. And we coincided that his worry is also mine, the uncertainty that the club's immediate future is provoking. And the need to return the primary idea, style and mystic, which he also feels is his because he's another Catalan in the sense that he feels Barça's philosophy as much as anyone. What I heard in his words is a Messi concerned about the direction the club will take from now and the need to make it clear where the project is heading.
I get the impression that the Blaugrana must analyse what they need, what they have too much of and what they don't have. I avoided asking about the coach because it's not tactful. We spoke about football, in general lines that there were players that were not 100 percent, that the team lacked bodies getting into the area and about certain situations in games. And he told me that he found what had happened unexplainable. They're football games. And even though it's tough to lose after having such a big first leg lead, as Barça did against Liverpool, they're situations which sometimes happen. And only with time are explanations found -- and then then they're never sufficient, either.
MESSI, A COMPETITIVE MACHINE
Lio has a competitive spirit and the disappointment in the Champions League will not affect his committment with the Albiceleste. He always plans every game as a challenge, but it's also true there's an emotional fatigue that you can notice, above all when he speaks about the frustration of the Champions League KO. His disappointment at losing a tie which was considered almost over. He suffered a lot and now he's trying to turn the page by thinking about next season. I could see he was tired, still angry after also losing the Copa del Rey final, but emotionally well predisposed.
And still with the wear and tear of the flight. He wanted to change and go to the gym. It's been an intense year for him. He has played more than 30 finals and I don't think we can take away the merit of winning La Liga, which was very important. He was as I imagined he would be: in his blood he has football DNA and he is always yearning for the ball and the creative link he has with it. You only have to see his face when the kitman passes in front of him with a bag full of balls. And Lio smiles.