Leo Messi has suggested that he believes Paris Saint-Germain is the best possible club to win the Champions League again and does not believe the “cool kid” Barcelona are struggling to win back the title.
Barca had not won the league for five years before Ernesto Valverde took over the helm. After seven successive top-four finishes they have finished behind champions and domestic rivals Real Madrid in the past two seasons. Barça did however mount a convincing defence of their La Liga title last season, while reaching the Champions League final and finishing runners-up. The progress has been enough to cause some fans to question their ability to win the biggest club prize.
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While Barça have not yet won La Liga in Valverde’s tenure, a strong showing at the Champions League last-16 stage in which they defeated Roma in the second leg last season helped convince Messi the trophy they so famously won in 2009 remains their main target.
“There is no doubt the league and La Liga are our main objectives but winning the Champions League is our first and our best target,” said Messi in an interview with ESPN. “Like any other team it’s not as easy to win it as some people think, in order to do that you have to win against the best and we did it so many times during my career. We know how to do it and for sure we are going to try to keep doing that.
“Real Madrid are still Barcelona’s rivals and I’m sure they will continue being one because we will be with them in the Champions League. We know each other very well and they’re a great team. But we are Barça, we’re coming out of a rainy season after a great season for us. We know we need to work hard and to get back where we belong.
“We feel very confident and we want to continue working hard and do the same things again. There are a lot of youngsters in the team now so we are working hard to try to have a good season and get back where we belong.”
Messi’s decision to use the PSG “ideal” for winning the European Cup may concern fans of Real Madrid, however. Many have pointed to PSG’s return to the competition as proof Barcelona’s departure, along with their £199m acquisition of Neymar, had affected them. Messi, however, believes there is a chance for the European superpower to try to “kill” the Catalans.
“When you get to Paris you find a great club – it’s ideal,” Messi said. “If you are a great club and people think it is the ideal way to win the Champions League, it is going to happen. We will see.”