Messi and Pochettino can form special bond - Ardiles

By Sports Desk August 11, 2021

Ossie Ardiles believes Lionel Messi will form a stronger bond with Mauricio Pochettino than he has with any other manager after the Argentina captain's sensational move to Paris Saint-Germain.

Messi has signed a two-year deal with PSG after Barca were unable to keep the superstar forward for financial reasons.

Former Argentina midfielder Ardiles expects the six-time Ballon d'Or to revel in playing under his compatriot Pochettino.

Ardiles also feels the presence of fellow Argentinians Angel Di Maria, Mauro Icardi and Leandro Paredes can only be a positive for Messi.

"Messi is not just Argentinian, but a global player. Of course he is able to play with anyone and he is also able to play at any style of game. This is how enormous his game is," Ardiles told Stats Perform News.

"it helps to have that many Argentinians. Mauricio, for instance, is from the same city [as Messi], Rosario. Obviously, they speak same language.

"It will be very important for Lionel Messi to have Mauricio there. Messi got along well with almost every manager, but I think it will be even better with Mauricio.

"Being with Di Maria, Paredes and Icardi will help, but I also think these players don’t play the full Argentinian style. They are very global. Icardi has been in Italy and now at PSG. The same for Paredes or Di Maria, being also in English football. From that point of view, there won’t be any issue, for sure."

Messi scored 672 times in 778 appearances for the Blaugrana, winning the Champions League four times and claiming 10 LaLiga titles.

The 34-year-old was reduced to tears during an emotional farewell press conference and Ardiles fears for Barca following the departure of the inspirational skipper - especially considering the desperate state of the club's finances.

 

Ardiles added: "Barca stays very, very hurt. Actually, the situation is absolutely critical. To lose the best player in the world is tough.

"He has spent 20 years in the club, he is the symbol, the captain… he is everything. I really think there are coming very tough times for Barcelona.

"We were used to seeing Barcelona leading the game and being the team to be beaten. If you wanted to lift the Champions League or LaLiga you had to beat Barcelona. That will all change with Messi's departure. Absolutely.

"On the other hand, Barcelona spent so much money. That's why it is in this situation now. Like people say, it has likely been [the fault of] the previous board, but the fact is Barcelona has spent much more than they could.

"So, nowadays, Barcelona cannot go to the market and buy the best player in the world, not even keep him in his own squad. And it can't either go to the market to buy the current stars, as they don't have money to do it.

"However, Barcelona is a very big club, an extraordinary club and of course it will be back. But I think it will take a long time."

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    Andres Iniesta arrived at Vissel Kobe amid plenty of fanfare in May 2018.

    One of the most successful players in Barcelona's history, having won LaLiga nine times and four Champions League crowns among his haul of 35 trophies, Iniesta was brought to Vissel to deliver silverware.

    Up until his arrival three years ago, Vissel had never won a trophy but during the Spain great's time in Kobe, the ambitious Rakuten-backed outfit have won the Emperor's Cup (2019) and Japanese Super Cup (2020).

    Vissel also qualified for the AFC Champions League for the first time in their 55-year history in 2020, reaching the semi-finals.

    Iniesta and Vissel are on track to feature in the Champions League again – Atsuhiro Miura's men are third in the J1 League this season and on course for their best finish in the top flight, three points clear of Nagoya Grampus in the race for the final qualification spot ahead of Sunday's showdown – as they seek to become kings of Asia.

    "The team have been saying we want to become the number one team in Asia so the first big goal is to win the Asian Champions League," Vissel defender Leo Osaki told Stats Perform about the project in Japan.

    "Of course we have to win the J1 League, we can't just be focused on the Champions League. But the biggest goal right now is to win the Champions League. We just have to finish third and hope we can play for the Champions League next season."

    When Iniesta swapped Camp Nou to join captain Lukas Podolski at Kobe Wing Stadium, it brought more eyes onto the club and attracted a host of stars the following year.

    Spain's all-time leading scorer David Villa, former Arsenal and Barcelona defender Thomas Vermaelen and Sergi Samper all followed Iniesta to Kobe.

    Vissel's investment in Iniesta paid off in 2019 after conquering Kashima Antlers for their first ever piece of silverware before overcoming 2019 J1 League champions Yokohama F.Marinos on penalties in the Japanese Super Cup in 2020.

    Since his debut, Iniesta has showed no signs of slowing down, with the 37-year-old maestro boasting 175 completed dribbles (second in the J1 League) and a 64 per cent success rate (third among at least 100 attempts) to go with 164 created chances (fifth) in 81 league appearances.

    In total, captain Iniesta has scored 17 goals and supplied 17 assists to spearhead Vissel's cause under the ownership of Rakuten, who continue to dream big after buying the team from the Crimson Group in 2014.

    "He didn't come here to finish his career. He came to win and you can see it in the training and locker room," Osaki said, with Vissel's 2021 squad including Vermaelen, Bojan Krkic and Samper. "I think bringing him into the team opened the path for other world-class players to come in and it attracted a lot of people to watch the J1 League and Vissel Kobe. In that point of view, it gave the team a positive reaction.

    "For him playing with us, since the first day he came, there was a positive reaction. Watching him from behind, it's a dream come true because most of us were just watching him on TV.

    "Playing wise, he demands a lot from everybody, not just players next to him but behind him, goalkeeper and strikers. In our bad times, he tries to talk to players and motivate them so the team doesn't fall apart.

    "Winning that title changed everything in a good way," Osaki added. "Since it was the first title in the club's history, that boosted the confidence for everyone. Also the expectations got higher. Winning those two titles changed a lot."

    "I think we haven't accomplished anything, so the job isn't finished. We have to play in the Champions League and become the number one team in Asia. We've made progress in terms of getting two titles. The team had never won any titles, so that was big progress," the 30-year-old said.

    "Playing in the Champions League gave us experience and confidence, which has helped us this season. In the Champions League, we didn't end up winning but I think that experience gave us confidence and that's why we are in this position now."

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    "Bringing in Andres and all those world-class players always gives a positive reaction to the team but at the same time, fans are like 'you have these players, so you have to win'. But football isn't that easy," he added.

    "Of course we have quality players and we play with 11 players, but it's a team sport. It takes time. Fans can't wait, they want results instantly. We struggled in the beginning and we were focused on possession and everything but now we are probably 50 per cent counter-attack and 50 per cent possession - and we started getting results."

    He added: "I think sometimes we focus on the project too much in the past. Of course, we want to play out from the back, press the ball and dominate the game but sometimes we focus on that too much. At times we had 60-70 per cent possession but we couldn't get results or win. We're still working on that actually, playing out of the back. We kind of added a different kind of style, just go forward at times.

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    He featured in four games against Los Blancos for the Blaugrana, winning one, losing one and drawing two.

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    "Most of the best players in the world are [at Barcelona and Real Madrid]," Belletti told Stats Perform. "So, just being involved is already special. Barca and [Real] Madrid have fans all over the world. We are aware of it as football players. And when we are not involved in El Clasico, whether we are from the football world or not, we are watching this game.

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    David Beckham, Roberto Carlos, Luis Figo, Zinedine Zidane and Brazilian striker Ronaldo were all in the Madrid team in that November 2004 game, with Samuel Eto'o, Giovanni van Bronckhorst and Ronaldinho scoring for Barcelona.

    Belletti says those that feature in this weekend's game will already feel, with some justification, that they have made it in the game.

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    They have won their last two games, however, beating Valencia 3-1 in LaLiga and Dynamo Kiev 1-0 in the Champions League as under-pressure head coach Ronald Koeman looks to generate momentum ahead of the first Clasico of the campaign, possibly a pivotal match in his reign.

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    Ansu Fati dismissed suggestions that inheriting Lionel Messi's number 10 shirt at Barcelona has brought additional expectations after committing his long-term future to the Catalan club.

    Fati signed a new six-year contract to keep him at the club until 2027, with a release clause of €1billion included - a week after Pedri had penned a similar extension with the Blaugrana.

    The Spain international burst onto the scene after making his debut in August 2019, becoming the club's youngest ever LaLiga goalscorer at the age of 16 years and 304 days.

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    "I'm going to work every day to improve as a person and as a player. I have not done anything yet, I must continue working, mark my path.

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