“Messi? There is a gap between what we can imagine of him and reality” — Foot11.com

Journalist at France Football, Florent Torchut knows Lionel Messi very well, having met him three times. He drew a biography (Solar editions) filled with many testimonies around the “Pulga”. More

After meeting Lionel Messi several times, what made you want to write a book about him?

“For me, it was obvious. The editor was very quickly interested in the subject of Messi. Indeed, I am a Frenchman who lived a lot of time in Argentina, when he was winning the Ballons d’Or and when he was at the height of his career. Then, I joined Barcelona where I could see the last years of Messi there in Catalonia. I also followed his transfer to Paris. Doing a book that compiles everything I’ve collected over the years would be interesting. Suddenly, there are a lot of anecdotes around him and we also discover his personality with all the interviews carried out. I collected photos from those around him, but also photos from childhood, with his parents, at Christmas or with his teammates. I had a lot of raw material regarding Messi and wanted people to understand who this player really is.”.

“Messi is a bit like you can imagine. A man who is quite shy although not sickly. He has a personality that is not necessarily expansive, but also knows how to be very calm, friendly and pleasant. A player who has things to say, much more than one might think. Moreover, some people have been able to believe that he had a lack of intelligence. It’s just a created myth. Everyone wants to compare him to Maradona or Ronaldo. A player like him with such a record necessarily has character, personality. Messi is not a person who talks a lot, but when he speaks, we listen to him. A respected player in the middle. Indeed, there are things that interest him less like the environment around football. However, when we talk about the ball, his eyes light up. There is a gap between what we can imagine of him and reality.

Lionell Messi in interview with Florent Torchut / Franck Seguin (the Team)
Lionell Messi in interview with Florent Torchut / Franck Seguin (the Team)

You are the last to have interviewed Diego Maradona, a memory of this interview?

“I keep an exceptional memory. I tried to get him an interview for over 10 years. It started when I started working in Argentina in 2009. Maradona was the country’s coach. Also, we passed each other at press conferences, but never closer than two meters. On the occasion of his 60th birthday, France Football wanted to do a special issue and entrusted me with the mission of interviewing him. Diego was seduced by the idea and was even sensitive. Indeed, France Football represented his youth and had been one of the first to have followed him to Argentina. The interview with him is the tip of the iceberg. Indeed, these were months of negotiation. For more than a month, I was at home every day waiting for a call or to follow up. Then one day, his wife calls me and gives me the green light. The interview lasted 13 minutes. I remember a rather tired Maradona, but always lively, mischievous. He told me how happy it was for him to be recognized, acclaimed at all stages. Having made the Argentines proud also made him happy. Maradona was a genius on the pitch and at coming out with incredible sentences..

In addition to Maradona and Messi, you met Di Maria, Aguero, Suarez, who surprised you the most in the interview?

“I wouldn’t say surprised, for example, Suarez is a great guy. Quite the opposite of what we can sometimes see on the ground. Suarez is a whole person, kind too. I had questioned him before the comeback against PSG. We had discussed the return match. I remember his belief in turning things around in the second leg. Di Maria, Aguero also were very approachable. They’re all great guys.”.

What is your assessment of Messi’s season in Paris?

“I don’t think it’s been a satisfying season from a player of Messi’s size. Even if he is one of the best passers in the championship. Nonetheless, Messi is efficient, involved in goals or even key passes. Overall, he had some pretty good matches, some less so. To say that his season is bad, I do not agree. We must not forget, the change of club and life. Messi was 21 years old in Barcelona so it obviously played a role. He has an adaptation that takes time and can only get better. I am rather confident about the continuation of his adventure at PSG. His position on the pitch is not the same as in Barcelona. With Neymar and Mbappé in the team, it’s complicated to have three players in front of goal. Messi tends to clinch and then get behind them. As a result, he is less often in front of goal. His goal against Lorient bears witness to this.”.

“I didn’t understand the whistles. Clearly, the first affected by his performance is him. The first one who wants to change things is him. Whistling him is more driving him down than helping him. I know those whistles affected him. On the one hand, he understood. Overall, his performances and those of the club are not up to what could be expected with the elimination in the Champions League. Messi, he is in the idea of ​​changing the situation. He is not a very combative player on defensive balls unlike offensive balls. He’s a player who saves his energy for creativity.”.

Will Messi stay in Paris next season despite the Champions League failure?

“Yes, he will stay in Paris. I’m pretty sure of it. Messi has the objective of achieving great things with PSG and does not want to dwell on this failure. It’s been a disappointing first season. He also has a contract with PSG who bet on him. We saw it with Barça as well as in the Argentine selection, there were ups and then downs. Each time, it was a player who raised his head. Also, we can expect a better season from him next year.”.

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