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Oct 1, 2012

Messi: Remember me as a good guy

Lionel Messi has said being remembered as "a good guy" is more important to him than scoring goals or breaking records.

• Sevilla 2-3 Barcelona
• Blog: An epic victory
• Thiago out for eight weeks

Messi, 25, believes the team is always more important than an individual, telling Spanish newspaper El Pais that earning the respect of team-mates was the best outcome that could be achieved on the pitch.

"I prefer to win titles than individual prizes or scoring goals," the Argentina international said. "I am more concerned about being a good person than the best player in the world.

"I hope that when I retire, people remember me as a good guy. I like to be friends with the people I play with. It is nice when they value you as a person, not just for scoring many goals."

Messi said media speculation about individual prizes such as this year's Ballon d'Or was unimportant because football is a team game.

"Journalists are always asking if this player is better than that one," he said. "Xavi [Hernandez] or [Andres] Iniesta? Who can say?

"I am lucky to have landed here at Barca and play with such great players. They have given me everything - the prizes, the goals, everything. Without the help of your team-mates, you would be nothing, win nothing."

Although Barcelona face Benfica in the Champions League on Tuesday, the week's main focus is likely to be Sunday's first La Liga Clasico of the season at Camp Nou.

Messi said he and his team-mates would need to be wary of Real Madrid's counter-attacking game, explaining: "Madrid, on the counter, they kill you. They have fast attackers, and go from defence to attack in five seconds and score. They do not have to play well to score three times.

"I am lucky to know [Gonzalo] Higuain and [Angel] Di Maria well. El Pipa [Higuain] does not appear, then he touches the ball twice and scores two goals.

The Argentina star said games against supposedly weaker teams were also challenging, but in different ways because teams had learned to play against Barca.

"Each game is different. Against Madrid, for what it means, for the ability of their players, it is tougher, but they are all tough. We could not score against Granada for 85 minutes, against Spartak we almost lost. It gets more difficult each time. We want to attack and they sit back and look for our weak point. If they get lucky and manage a good counter-attack, they can make it very difficult for us."

Despite these difficulties, Barcelona have managed to win all seven La Liga and Champions League games so far this season under new coach Tito Vilanova.

"I smiled [when Vilanova was appointed] because it was good news," Messi said."I know him from when I was boy. Tito was the first who started me for the cadetes [in 2001, alongside current team-mates Gerard Pique and Cesc Fabregas], before that I had been a substitute or not even played. He is a normal, open person. He says things to your face without a problem. I like that.

"My way of playing has not changed much [since the youth team], although I have obviously learned many things about the game," he said. Just yesterday I was watching the seven-year-old boys training beside us. They were being taught to play with the ball, to look after it, tactical things, how to understand the game. They were playing just like us. It still surprises me."

Another Messi could be joining the La Masia system in the coming years, with Barca's No. 10 due to become a father next month. "I am very prepared for the arrival of Thiago," he said. "I am very excited about it."

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