Messi wary of Bolivia trip
Lionel Messi says he is not particularly looking forward to Tuesday's World Cup qualifying game at Bolivia, given the painful memories he retains of his last visit with Argentina.
Argentina were hammered 6-1 in La Paz in April 2009, when a side coached by Diego Maradona were making hard work of qualifying for the following year's World Cup in South Africa.
Messi told El Mundo Deportivo he could still recall how difficult it had been to play in the high-altitude conditions in La Paz, which is 3,600 metres above sea-level.
"We all know what happened there the last time," Messi said. "It was very hard. The truth is it was terrible because when you sprint on the pitch you cannot recover."
Before Tuesday's trip to La Paz, the Albiceleste - currently top of the South American qualifying group for Brazil 2014 with 20 points from nine games under current boss Alejandro Sabella - host Venezuela in Buenos Aires on Friday night.
Messi's achievement in winning four Ballon d'Or awards is due to be recognised in a pre-game ceremony at El Monumental, even if the player himself would rather spend that time concentrating on the game about to kick off.
"The truth is I did not expect it, I just came here to play a game," he said. "I found out about it when I arrived here. I do not really like these things before games, although of course I appreciate the gesture."
Venezuela, who have their own hopes of reaching next year's finals in Brazil and beat Argentina 1-0 in October's reverse qualifier in Puerto La Cruz, would again be a tough test, Messi said.
"They will be a very difficult opponent," he said. "When we played there, we had a very good first half, although it was very hot. The game was even, but they scored from a set-piece. They are a good team, organised and can play on the counter with very fast players. We must play our game and keep playing as we have been up to now."
Asked about another revered figure in Argentina, newly elected Pope Francis I, Messi said he was very proud of his fellow countryman's achievement and hoped one day their paths would cross.
"All Argentines are proud about this," he said. "Obviously I would like to meet him."