NEWS
Wednesday January 16 2013
Messi: I’ve changed so much

Lionel Messi has reflected on his Ballon d’Or familiarity and how he has changed since first appearing at the awards ceremony in 2007.

This month saw the Argentine make history as the first player to ever receive four Ballon d’Or awards and whilst it was also his sixth consecutive awards ceremony, the 25-year-old has reflected that a lot has changed and that each year is ‘special’.

“To be honest, it hasn’t become a habit for me. Even though these events are similar or practically the same, every year is special,” Messi told FIFA’s official website in a lengthy interview published today.

“Just being here is always different: it’s always a lovely feeling knowing what days like this mean. And, what’s more, it’s a sign that you’re doing a good job.

“Since my first awards ceremony in 2007 have I changed? So much! It’s true yes, a lot of things have happened to me and obviously I’ve grown up both as a player and a person.

“That was a lot of years ago, the first time I came I would’ve been 18 or 19. I’ve become more mature, my personality has developed and my career has taken shape. Loads of things have changed.”

The Argentine set a new world record in 2012 for goals scored during a calendar year. He was asked to pick which of the 91 goals scored was his favourite.

“Like I’ve said many times before, I’m always more likely to remember goals for their importance rather than if they’re beautiful or not. Goals scored in finals for example.

“So, in this case, the one I scored against Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey is the most important.

“And a highlight of the year? I think it was a good year overall. Although I would have liked to have won more with my club, I think it turned out to be a positive year with the Argentinean national team.

“That meant a lot to us all and that’s what I’d highlight: the national team having a great year after things not having gone well for such a long time.”

It was Messi’s most fruitful spell in front of goal for the Albiceleste and he considered what has changed for that to be the case.

“The national team in itself changed. For things to go well it depends on everybody involved, not just one player. And it’s not as if things were only going badly for me before, things weren’t right with the national team as a whole, for whatever reason.

“But once we started winning and our results improved, everything got easier. The fans are behind us, the press aren’t as critical as they have been in the past and we’re able to get on with the job in a different, calmer way.

“On top of that you end up getting more respect from opponents because of the form you’re in. The biggest change was the results, simple as that.

“Do I feel more appreciated now in Argentina? Yes, I do. We’ve been fortunate enough to play in the capital, in the country’s interior region and all over the place, and the way the fans treated me and the team was amazing.

“That’s something we earned with our results and our football. We’ve fired people’s enthusiasm and I’d say we’re more united than ever.”

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