Barcelona captain Lionel Messi has given some credit to Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola as he recalls how the manager changed his game.
Guardiola was in charge of Barcelona between 2008-2012, a period that saw Messi enjoy some of the finest years of his career, netting an incredible 211 goals and registering 89 assists in 219 games.
The 32-year-old explained that Guardiola decided to shift him to the centre before a game against their biggest rivals - Real Madrid.
"I remember that it was a surprise for me because I was called up the day before the game, was made to go to Guardiola’s office at the Ciutat Esportiva, and I was told that he had been watching Madrid’s games a lot, as he did with every opponent," Messi was quoted as saying on Manchester Evening News.
"He had been talking with Tito Vilanova and they had thought about me playing as a false nine. He was going to put Samuel [Eto'o] and Thierry Henry on the outside, and I was going to play as the false centre forward.
"I wasn’t going to stay there, but rather come out and join up with the central midfield. The idea was that Madrid’s centre backs would follow me out, and the two fast wingers that we had would go around the back.
"One of Henry’s goals was like that. It was a surprise for us and for Madrid. I remember that we had a lot of possession, and we always had an extra man in the middle of the park.
"I’d never played as a centre forward, but I knew that position because it meant coming through from deep to get forward, without being a static number 9. It wasn’t a big change for me. I’d been playing on the outside for years, and so I knew what that position was about."
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