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Messi and Iniesta never cease to amaze Mascherano

Barcelona defender Javier Mascherano has nothing but praise for Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta and has stressed the duo never stop surprising him with their brilliance on the pitch.

Mascherano is adamant football is much more complicated than it seems, but he has conceded his team-mates often make him question that statement with their sublime performances.

"Football is not as easy as it looks from television gantry, but for Messi it is," Mascherano told The Independent.

"He is someone you never stop being surprised by.

"Iniesta is the same. There is always a piece of skill during a match or a training session where the normal thing would be that it doesn't work out, but with them it does.

"I have seen Iniesta dribble on the edge of our area so many times and you say to yourself: 'How has he done that?' If he loses the ball then they score. But he doesn't lose it."

Mascherano believes the presence of homegrown players such as Messi and Iniesta - along with the likes of Sergio Busquets, Gerard Pique and Jordi Alba - has been key to Barcelona's success in recent years, with those who came through Barca's youth academy leading new arrivals the way.

"Those on the inside don't have to adapt to those coming from the outside. It's those arriving to the club from the outside who have to adapt to those already here. The players who have come up through the system are the ones who pass on the culture of the club," he added.

"That is the special thing here: the homegrown players have laid the path and those that have arrived afterwards follow it. The players have been winning all there is to win for so many years, and yet they still have that hunger for more.

"Even just a little bit of praise can weaken you. So imagine when there is not just the praise but the medals on the table too. But these players have marked out the route and those that join the club are obliged to follow in their footsteps. 

"Great players are very good technically but they also have a huge amount of character, because without it you will never get to see that great technique because it vanishes under pressure.

"I have had so many team-mates who have been technically better than me. But they have lacked that desire and mental strength. This team has that."