Lionel Messi: I’m not the sort of guy who shouts and screams before a match

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Pique, Iniesta, Cesc and la Masia

I wouldn’t say it’s all that important to people you’ve known for a long time in the team with you, but it’s certainly a beautiful feeling to have shared such great moments with some great friends. People like Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas and Gerard Pique. Is Pique as much of a joker as people say? [Laughs] He has his moments, but as soon as it comes to football, he becomes serious again. Everybody talks about Pique being the dressing room joker, but I can tell you that’s not the case. When it’s time for football, two words come to mind: serious and work.

Mental preparation for a game

I start preparing for a game, much like the rest of the squad, after the previous match finishes. We talk about what we did well and what we can improve. We play a lot of games in a very short space of time, so I think it’s important to always look forwards and never backwards in football.

Before a game, my preparation is similar to how I am at training. I don’t have any sort of ritual, or anything like that, I just put on whatever item of clothing is nearest to me. I’m not the sort of guy who goes around shouting and screaming in the dressing room before a game, either. I prefer to stay calm, be with my own thoughts and think about some of the situations that I’m likely to face in the upcoming game.

I like to imagine things, like the opposition defenders and what might happen. Obviously, in your imagination everything always turns out for the best. It’s not often like that in a game, but I find it very useful to visualise what might happen.

Some people say my style of play is innate, but I’m not sure if that’s me or not. Honestly, I do play on instinct. On the pitch, I’m always looking for the best move or decision at any given time. I never want to do what the opposition would be expecting.

Relaxation after a game

After training I usually go home to spend time with my family, son and the people closest to me. That’s just me, really. I don’t play other sports, I enjoy following them on TV, but that’s about it.

Sometimes I play FIFA on the PlayStation against my Barcelona or Argentina team-mates, which is always good fun. I wouldn’t say I’m the king, though, there are a few who are pretty good.

By the evening, the time I go to sleep varies. If it’s been a busy day with a heavy training session and I feel tired, then it’ll be earlier. But as a general rule, me, my other half and the little one don’t have a definite time to go to sleep. I find it easiest to drift off with the TV on in the background. That noise helps me relax.

Contesting the Clasico

The Clasico is obviously a special game. It’s important for what it means to everyone involved, from the players to the fans. It’s an event all around the world. As a player, though, you have to treat it like any other game. Like any derby, there’s something extra to the game. They’re amazing to play in and it’s a fixture I’ve been very lucky to score a lot of goals in [Messi has scored more Clasico goals than anyone else].

I think on the international stage, Brazil vs Argentina is similar to Real Madrid vs Barça. Both matches involve big teams who have a great rivalry, the main difference being that for the former it’s all about the countries, while Barcelona isn’t just about the city, but the fans from afar who have feelings for the club.

Dealing with pressure

Pressure in football is an interesting topic. Personally, I try to help myself as best I can. I’m always looking to remain as calm and relaxed as possible when I go onto the pitch. When I feel the grass beneath my feat I feel sure, because playing football is what I enjoy most. Is that pressure a blessing or curse? I don’t know.

I try to use pressure to help me in every game. Pressure helps me do things to the best of my ability. I like it. I don’t feel pressure; quite the contrary, because I always enjoy what I’m doing and that’s playing football.