‘Messi still has the passion’

Former Barcelona defender Gabi Milito has rubbished the suggestion Lionel Messi is losing his passion for football.

Angel Cappa, a Barcelona assistant coach under Cesar Luis Menotti, claimed Messi was in decline after a poor showing in La Blaugrana’s defeat to Valencia earlier in February.

But Milito, who played at Camp Nou between 2007 and 2011, pointed to Messi’s performance against Sevilla as evidence the forward is as motivated as ever.

“Leo is fine,” the former centre-back, now retired, said on La Xarxa.

“He had a spectacular match against Sevilla, scoring twice and playing well.

“We know Leo is the best so there’s no need for me to say it. I see him playing really well.

“I feel he’s left his injury behind, is getting in shape and at the rate you get competitive games, will surely only get sharper.”

Milito added that while he respects the opinion of Cappa, it is one he doesn’t share.

“Everyone is free to say what they see and feel but I think it’s impossible Leo has lost his passion for football.

“He’s a fan of the sport and passionate about what he does. He has a spirit that can overcome.

“Cappa’s opinion should be respected but I know Leo, how he thinks and acts.

“He’s very competitive and you need to have that passion for the game.

“I respect everyone’s opinion but this is one I don’t share.”

Milito also praised another of his compatriots, Coach Tata Martino, and believes Barca could be looking at a treble-winning season.

“I’m a fan of his thinking and I think that with the team Tata has there is a good chance of winning everything.

“They have two of the things necessary – a great team and an excellent Coach.

“I have great faith in Tata and a lot of faith in the players. I know most of them and I know they want to keep winning.”

Much of Milito’s time at Barca was spent under Pep Guardiola and the current Bayern Munich boss is rated by Milito as the best Coach he worked with.

“My time at the club helped me understand and play football in a different way. After those four wonderful years I identify with the club and this has a lot to do with what I learned from Pep.

“It was a new way of football. I’ve had very good Coaches but Pep is different. He has a unique ability.”

Milito concluded by suggesting that if there’s one area of the team Barca need to improve, it’s in the centre of defence.

“It’s been demonstrated for many years that Barca are ready for defenders.

“You have to be able to guarantee you can compete at the highest level against a team that is there.

“But this is a question for the sporting director, along with the Coach.”

Tags Martino Messi Milito