Barcelona are in the era of Lionel Messi, not of Pep Guardiola or Luis Enrique, according to Jorge Valdano.
The former Argentina international and Real Madrid coach believes Messi is the defining component of the Catalan club’s recent success, not either of their treble-winning coaches.
Valdano likened his compatriot’s influence at Barca to that of Alfredo Di Stefano at Real Madrid, who won five European Cups and eight La Liga titles after joining from Millonarios in 1953.
Asked what defines the current Barca side, Valdano told Mundo Deportivo: “It simply has one name – it is called Messi.
“Madrid had the time of Di Stefano, but they signed him at 27-years-old, almost the age Messi is now.”
Messi has won 26 major trophies with Barca, but is yet to inspire Argentina to a senior international title, finishing as a runner-up at World Cup 2014 and Copa America 2015.
The 28-year-old has been compared to national hero Diego Maradona throughout his career and Valdano offered his thoughts on why he is yet to achieve similar glory on the international stage.
“Messi is open to a historic comparison with Maradona, who has sentimentality for Argentinians – more so because he won a World Cup [in 1986] by beating the English [in the quarter-finals] in revenge for the Falkand Islands [war]. That gave him an almost absolute power,” he said.
“Messi learned his collective game at Barca and that gives you habits that are not easy to acquire elsewhere. Anyone who comes from outside is adapted, more or less, but it’s clear that they were not born in La Masia.
“Those who leave will also have adjustment problems and from that he is not free, not even a genius like Messi.
“Barca knows how to use Messi, the entire team is able to able to shape the play so Messi can take part in it.
“In Argentina, however, some move too much, others do not know that you have to give it to Messi even when he’s marked. Therefore, in the national team his contributions are lower.
“To blame it on the best in the world seems extravagant. It’s the same as what happened to [Zinedine] Zidane when he joined Real Madrid.
“Some wondered whether it was appropriate to play Zidane, when maybe the question is whether it was appropriate to play any of the other 10.”
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