Real Madrid and Argentina midfielder Angel Di Maria has praised Lionel Messi’s captaincy of the national team.
Di Maria has spoken with AS ahead of the start of the tournament and as well as praising Messi, rated his country’s chances of success.
But when the talk turned to the Barcelona man, Di Maria was fulsome in his praise of Messi’s leadership.
“It was our choice who wears the captain’s armband and we chose Messi,” Di Maria said.
“Hopefully he has a great World Cup. He’s a fantastic player, and as a person, a great friend and a very good teammate. He’s a great captain.
“We all want the team to go well. The group is very united and we worked hard to get here. We want to continue down this path.
“I tell the same story [about meeting Messi for the first time]. When he went to the Olympics and I met him he was strong. Everyone was talking about Leo.
“He was already a dangerous player and I was next on the pitch. I like having him as a teammate.
“My friends always tell me [I’m lucky to play with Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo]. But over time I got used to it. I took it as natural to appear next to them.
“They are two great players, no doubt, and luckily I have them as teammates.”
Di Maria was also asked how his game changes when he’s in the same team as Messi, but argued that the principles don’t differ at all.
“I keep playing the same old game, help from the front or from behind,” he said.
“The effort is everyone’s. Each has to work in their function. The idea is to attack and defend with the same intensity and we are working towards it.
“We want the best and to leave everything on the field. We have the dream of a great World Cup.
“But if you ask me, I think more about the collective than the individual.
“We’ve learned a lot [from the last World Cup]. You learn from mistakes. I want to push myself to grow.
“Things didn’t go as people hoped but now we have another World Cup to respond. Hopefully everything goes as we hope.”
Di Maria was part of the Madrid side that claimed the Champions League last season and said that while it’s a different competition, winning the World Cup would be as thrilling.
“It’s true that I’m very happy and pleased with everything I’ve been through,” he said.
“It was a dream night, that you always wait for and you remember your loved ones, the people who always helped you.
“I’m grateful to God for my family and for my friends. If you believe in yourself, if you fight for your dreams, at some point you realise them.
“But now I have my head in the World Cup. It’s what I dreamed of as a kid, when I played football with my friends. And I won’t stop chasing that dream.”