Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Valverde salutes ´extraordinary´ Messi ahead of 600th Barca game

SoccerNews in La Liga 3 Nov 2017

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Lionel Messi is in line to make his 600th Barcelona appearance in Saturday’s LaLiga clash with Sevilla and an astonished Ernesto Valverde surmising he has “run out of adjectives for him”.

The 30-year-old made his first appearance for the club in October 2004 and has since gone on to become one of the greatest players of all time.

Messi is the club’s all-time leading scorer with 523 across all competitions – his first coming against Albacete in May 2005.

As he looks set to reach 600 appearances on Saturday, he will undoubtedly have one eye on Xavi’s club record of 767.

And Valverde was quick to point out that the sheer quality he has shown across his 599 games thus far makes the feat all the more impressive.

“That’s extraordinary,” Valverde told a news conference on Friday. “To do that for the same club and scoring the goals he does, getting the assists he gets and showing the brilliance he has is crazy – we’ve run out of adjectives for him.

“It shows how important he is to this club. I don’t know if there will ever be anyone like him.

“It’s not just the number [that is so impressive] – it’s what those games have been like.”

The omens are good for Messi and Barca on Saturday, with the Argentinian scoring 29 goals in 20 games against the Andalusians, making them his most favoured opposition.

But Valverde is certain that Sevilla, and coach Eduardo Berizzo, are going to provide a stern test, having won their last three games in all competitions to quell a slump in form.

He said: “When you prepare for a game you don’t look just at the club now, you look at the past, what they’ve done in this stadium before, and you look at the how the manager has done with his former team.

“He [Berizzo] has a good record versus Barca. He got good results with Celta [Vigo] and he tends to go into the game looking to win.

“He likes his team to take the initiative. It’s a dangerous game. They want to try to turn around their situation, maybe play aggressive and stop us from getting ball out of defence.

“It will be hard for us to have the possession as we like and he’s doing the right thing.”

While Messi gets most of the plaudits for his goals, Barca perhaps have not received the recognition they deserve for their defensive solidity this season – they have conceded just three times in 10 league games.

But Valverde was eager to praise goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen for his impact.

He added: “When goalkeepers make mistakes it is very clear, evident, and even when they aren’t making errors they still get blamed.

“But we have to praise everything he [Ter Stegen] has done, but not just in goal, but also for helping our style of play at the back.”

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