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Barcelona pay for first refusal on Atletico stars

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Barcelona's Lionel Messi: I had a lot of problems during 2013-14 season

Lionel Messi has admitted that he "went through a lot of problems on and off the field" during an unsuccessful 2013-14 season, but is ready to lead Barcelona to success this year.

Messi, 27, endured a frustrating campaign last term as Atletico Madrid won the Spanish title at the Camp Nou on the final day of the season, while Real Madrid beat the Blaugrana in the Copa del Rey final.

Messi's side were knocked out of the Champions League quarterfinals by Atletico, while the Argentina international also tasted defeat in the World Cup final last summer as Germany lifted the trophy following an extra-time victory.

An investigation by the Spanish tax authorities coupled with a reported falling-out with Barca coach Luis Enrique led to speculation that Messi could leave the Camp Nou this summer.

However, the forward has re-found his form in the wake of missing out on the Ballon d'Or to Cristiano Ronaldo by netting 11 league goals since the turn of the year, and is looking ahead to guiding Barca to silverware this term.

In an interview with Mundo Leo, AS quotes Messi as saying: "The truth is that this year I tried to get to my best form as quickly as possible. I knew I was coming off the back of a not very good year, during which I went through a lot of problems on and off the field.

"It was a challenge to change the image that I had given out last season and to be the player I had been in previous seasons again. That was my objective and that's how I came out at the start of this season, really up for it."

Messi has recovered from a difficult season to start 2015 in superb goalscoring form.

Barca started the second half of their season with a 1-0 La Liga loss at Real Sociedad, but have won their last 11 games in all competitions to reach the Copa del Rey semifinals and sit just a point behind table-toppers Real Madrid.

Messi continued: "The truth is that we're in good shape at the moment. Luckily, after the match against Real Sociedad, where we didn't start the year very well, everything changed. Now there is a different dynamic to the team, everything we do comes off.

"The team has a lot of confidence and we've changed the attitude and drive. That's why we're playing like we are at the moment, but there is still a long way to go. We still haven't won anything yet.

"There are many months of competition left in the league and in Europe. And we have to try and reach the cup final as well. We have to carry on as we are to reach our goals."

Barca face Manchester City in the last-16 of the Champions League for the second consecutive year, and Messi believes the Blaugrana have a challenging tie against Manuel Pellegrini's side in order to reach the quarterfinals.

"We drew City like last year and they are a team made up of great players, so it will be a difficult tie," he added. "Their objective is to go through because they haven't done for a while.

"It will be an even match-up and the little details will be what makes the difference. It will be a great game, and City have reinforced a lot [since last season]."


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