Messi: I want to take on Neymar in the final
Argentina captain Lionel Messi has said he would like to play Barcelona teammate and Brazil forward Neymar in the World Cup final.
The tournament gets underway tomorrow with Brazil meeting Croatia, and Messi has said in an interview that if he could choose, he would play the hosts in the final.
But, Messi added, if he can’t face Neymar, he would be happy just to be in the showpiece game regardless of the opposition.
“It would be a dream to get to the World Cup final,” Sport reports Messi as saying.
“For the way things are going I think we can get there. Hopefully I can play Neymar in the final, but if not him, then any team.”
This will be Messi’s third World Cup, having debuted in the competition in 2006 and returned four years later under Diego Maradona.
Messi reflected on his past World Cup experiences, revealing his unhappiness with criticism that was levelled at him after Argentina disappointed in Germany, and what it was like to be coached by Maradona.
“It was beautiful as it was my first experience in the tournament,” Messi said of 2006. “But after we went out they were very unfair to me, because that team played well.
“They said I wasn’t bitter about the defeat, which wasn’t true.
“[Maradona and I] got along very well. He has a way of communicating things that is most special.
“Sometimes it’s easier to clear out the Coach than the players, who were truly responsible for getting knocked out.”
Messi returned to his attitude on the field, discussing how his mindset differs once he crosses the white line as compared to how he is away from the game.
“I don’t look anything like the person I am at home,” he said. “I like to win and if I have to fight or argue to do so, I will.
“Once I come onto the field, I’m transformed.”