Becoming Leo Messi | OTRO Exclusive

It’s a wonderful recognition. It was the first
and perhaps the most special. I remember that I was in Barcelona
for 15 days, then I returned to Argentina. Then, after a few months, they told me
they were willing for me to come, that I should move here
and begin my dream at Barcelona. It was a great joy for me
and my entire family. I was quite anxious to know
whether or not I would be coming here. The truth is, at that time… I didn’t really understand
what a huge change it would be, because I was a kid and the only thing
I wanted was to go to Barcelona to play, and I didn’t think
about the difficult change it would be for me
and my whole family. The truth is, it was unpleasant and hard. The best part was playing and training,
and not being able to play was tough. On top of that, I suffered some injuries when I had been playing here
for two, three or four months. I got injured in my first match and
I was sidelined for a month and a half. They were hard times
but I never thought about going back, even though my siblings
had returned to Argentina. My mum and my sister also went back because the adjustment for my sister
was especially difficult – she was the youngest
and she found it difficult at school. And so they decided that my mum
would take her back to Argentina. My father and I stayed behind by ourselves
and he asked me what I wanted to do – if we would stay here or go back – the decision was mine to make
and he would accompany me. I was always certain
that I wanted to stay here. That was a long time ago –
I don’t remember it well – but, yes, it was very special,
even the celebration. I always had the support
of everyone in the dressing room – I’ve told him that a lot. Because they made me feel more at ease,
that I could be myself, and that way, I could loosen up quicker. When I arrived in the dressing room
of the first team, he was the first one to hug me,
take me under his wing, and guide me at every point. But it wasn’t just him –
the whole team did the same thing. The truth is that it was a change
that I was very comfortable with and one that I preferred, because since I was a little kid,
I had always played that position. Playing outside forward
wasn’t really the position I was used to. That week, Guardiola called
me up all of a sudden and told me that we were going to play
differently and change my position, because he wanted there to be more of us
in the centre of the pitch, to have greater control of the ball
and more dominance in that respect. In that way, the forwards could mount
a constant attack on the defenders. It was a surprising play, especially
for Real Madrid because it wasn’t expected, and it changed things up from what
we had been doing all year with Guardiola. We were as fast as Henry,
or Samuel Eto’o. It turned out to be
an exciting match for me, and for the team,
it was an historic victory, both for the outcome
and for the opposition. I didn’t know afterwards whether or not
I would be able to pull it off again. I wasn’t aware of it at the time,
but luckily, I was able to do it again. In 2006, I had the misfortune
of getting injured in the round of 16 against Chelsea
and I couldn’t play on. And, truthfully, I didn’t enjoy it
as much as I enjoyed it in 2009, which I regret too because I was very young
and I wasn’t aware of things. And at that time, I didn’t enjoy what I should have enjoyed
having just won the Champions League. The way the team played was incredible and they had been playing well
throughout the entire year, so to play well in the final
against Manchester United was also a great end
to an incredible year. It meant a great deal
because it practically clinched the final and rounded off an historic year for having won all the titles
that we played that season, but also how we were able to do it. It was just something natural. I had spoken about it with Antonella –
about revealing it so that people know. And, well, it was a special time, because it was a match
in the qualifying round. And so much was happening on the pitch,
with my family, with her, with her family, and it came about and it was natural. For me, family is everything, especially so with the arrival
of my first son, Thiago – it totally changed my life, my way
of thinking and the way I see things. And, well… now with Mateo we are continuing
our wonderful family, thank God. They fulfil me in every sense
and I’m a father who has the luck of spending a lot of time with them
because of what I do… We work around
the training and match schedule and it allows me to enjoy spending time
with them and to enjoy what I do. I’m always looking after them or playing, and while it’s quite tiring,
I always try to be with them, enjoying every moment
and being present in every respect. It’s a wonderful recognition. It was the first
and perhaps the most special. It comes from a group effort. Without having achieved
all of the collective success that we did, I would not have been able
to receive this by myself. While I always say that in reality
the important thing is the group, it’s a great recognition. It was the first
and perhaps the most special. That photo of the three of us
nominated for the Ballon d’Or was special for us, because of our friendship, for
being at the same club for so long, for the three of us having lived through
practically the same early career, and it was special for the club. For all that it means,
it was really incredible. The secret to a team. The Ballon d’Or was an achievement
that belonged to the whole team. I can see that better than anyone. It’s about scoring goals, and it would be very difficult
without my teammates. It’s the same for not conceding goals –
it depends on everyone.

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