Barcelona boss Valverde plays down Messi retirement talk

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde has dismissed talk of Lionel Messi retiring any time soon.

Messi hinted he might be contemplating hanging up his boots in the near future by saying ‘the moment of withdrawal is approaching’ after collecting a sixth Ballon d’Or earlier this week.

However, Valverde does not see the record-breaking 32-year-old, who has scored 614 goals in 701 appearances for Barca and helped the club win 34 trophies since making his first-team debut in 2004, calling it a day in the near future.

Lionel Messi has won the Ballon d'Or a record six times
Lionel Messi has won the Ballon d’Or a record six times (Francois Mori/AP)

The Barca boss, speaking ahead of Saturday’s LaLiga visit of Real Mallorca, told a press conference: “It (what Messi said) seems something natural and normal.

“He’s 32-years-old and when a player passes 30 he thinks more about the end of his career, but I don’t think we need to read too much into this and his words don’t mean he’s going to leave football now or in the next three days.”

Messi will parade the Ballon d’Or to fans at the Nou Camp before the clash with promoted Mallorca.

The Argentinian previously won the award in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2015, leaving him one clear of Cristiano Ronaldo as the most decorated player in the history of the award.

“It’s impressive because he has won them himself,” added Valverde.

“I’m aware what it means to coach Messi, but at times you can’t enjoy the everyday things all the time.  You appreciate things more with time.

“I’m aware that I’ve had the fortune to coach Leo. In the same way that older people talk about (Alfredo) Di Stefano, we can say that we’ve been in the era of Messi.”

Mallorca’s return to the top flight has been tough with just four wins from their first 15 games, leaving them just one place and one point above the relegation zone.

All of their 14 points so far have come at home and they now face the daunting prospect of trying to get something at the Nou Camp, where champions Barca have won 51 of their last 61 league matches while losing just once.

“They are a newly-promoted team who have problems away from home,” said Valverde.

“They always have a positive attitude and will come to stand up to get something positive.”

Barcelona were given a scare by basement side Leganes last month – the champions fighting back from a half-time deficit to win 2-1 – so Valverde is not taking Saturday’s visitors lightly.

“We know that then comes the intensity,” he said. “Tomorrow is a key game and we have to remember what we suffered in Leganes.”

Mallorca may have the worst away record in LaLiga but at home they have beaten Real Madrid and Villarreal while also taking points off Athletic Bilbao this season, and coach Vicente Moreno hopes they can make things tough for the leaders too.

“You always cling to that little bit of light: that all the conditions will come together in order to get something positive from there,” he said on his club’s website.

“It’s not a question of changing our style, we have to try and make sure that they aren’t able to rely on their virtues – which is very difficult – and we can play to ours. Let’s go with that motivation.”

Regarding the prospect of facing Messi, Moreno joked: “When Messi has a bad day, he still scores three.  To say a formula that will give you a victory, there is none.”

Football Paradise Staff Reporter

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