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Arsenal can lay down a marker

Arsenal
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Messi 'shocked' at Guardiola exit

Lionel Messi has told reporters that he was "surprised and saddened" by the departure of Pep Guardiola from Barcelona after four years in charge at the Camp Nou.

Messi, 24, gave his first public comments on the managerial changes at the club, expressing his sadness at Guardiola's exit. However, the Argentine was quick to offer his backing to successor Tito Vilanova, who has already played a role in the club's success of recent years.

Guardiola's era at the helm came to an end last weekend, with a comprehensive victory over Athletic Bilbao in the final of the Copa del Rey - the 14th trophy over his reign. Messi, though, holds some regrets over missed opportunities.

"I was surprised and saddened by Guardiola's departure after four great years together with many titles. It won't be easy after all that Pep achieved, but they did everything together and Tito was a great help in these years," Messi told AS.

"We were close to winning the league and the Champions League. I am madder about the Champions League because I think our elimination was unjust and also for missing that penalty. But this is already behind us. I am very happy for all the goals that I scored. My objective is the same every year - to keep learning, growing and improving.''

Messi scored an incredible 73 goals this campaign, including a record 50 goals in La Liga. He is currently with the Argentina squad ahead of this week's World Cup qualifying clash with Ecuador in Buenos Aires.

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