Having played alongside both Lionel MESSI and Andres INIESTA, the Boca legend weighed in on what he thinks of the two players. The following is the interview from Marca.
You will see the Spain v Argentina match on television at home. How do you see this game going?
“Argentina are very excited and I hope MESSI can play to the fullest. And I hope INIESTA too as he’s the one who plays the best ball of all. If those two monsters are on the pitch, fun is assured. We’ll see something nice, for sure.”
For you, Leo and Andres, are still the two best, right?
“For me and for all football fans, I think. Messi is the best in the world and Andres, the one who understands the game better, the one who sees down there on the pitch everything we see sitting in the stands or in the armchair at home. He sees the same thing… but being on the grass and with the ball! Amazing.
“They are the two best. I love watching them play and all I want is for the time of the game to arrive and for people to enjoy and have fun, because that’s what football is for.”
Has Andres been at the same level over the years?
“INIESTA is unique, and you have to enjoy him a lot, because when he doesn’t play anymore, we will miss him. I don’t know if we will be lucky enough to see something similar. Did you see the pass that he gave to RODRIGO against Germany? It was fabulous.
“Only he does that. What happens is that we get used to it and it looks normal, but when he’s not there, we’ll say: ‘Do you remember the passes Andres gave?’ Nobody else is going to give them. For me, seeing him control the ball, pass the ball… it’s a luxury. Those who like to watch football should be grateful to Andres.”
How do you see the battle of styles between La Roja and your country?
“Spain has a known style, always trying to have more possession than the opponent. And Argentina is still looking for a way to play. The World Cup is short and SAMPAOLI is still trying to complete the squad list, and then build a team. The match is very good for my country to know what level it is at and if it can compete with the best.
“I hope that Argentina will improve, but the style of Spain has been defined for some time. Argentina is still in that process of finding a team, which is the most difficult.”
What about Lautaro MARTINEZ, the new pearl from Argentina? Is he that good?
“We are excited about him. In the Argentine league he makes the difference. I hope he keeps growing, learning from HIGUAIN, MESSI and AGUERO.”
The ’10’ of Argentina is MESSI, but, conceptually, it’s RIQUELME…
“This team is still being formed. We hope that in those 30 days of the World Cup, MESSI is well. If Leo is fine, he is capable of everything. For the first time he comes rested to a World Cup, without having played everything, and that is an advantage. He will be physically better than in other World Cups.”
Do we expect an offensive Argentina on Tuesday?
“I hope it is a great game, that Argentina try to attack and play well, because we know that Spain will not change. They may miss BUSQUETS, but if MESSI plays, there is an obligation to attack. We are very happy that Leo is Argentine.”
If he had chosen Spain…”
[Laughs] Surely, with him, Spain would have had more chances to win another World Cup. He has many colleagues from Barcelona, he trains there every day, they know each other. He would be an advantage, but… he’s Argentine!”
Do you see any other favourites?
“I see Brazil as very strong. They’re playing well and have NEYMAR. Germany can do well and always fight. France, too… but Brazil are very strong.”
Besides Messi, is there not another player like Neymar?
“MESSI, Cristiano RONALDO and NEYMAR are on a level above the rest. These players will not be repeated anymore. They can make a difference in the World Cup.”
On the topic of RIQUELME, here’s a fun little fact from the 2006 FIFA World Cup:
99% – Juan Román Riquelme recorded a passing accuracy of 99% against Serbia in Germany 2006 – the highest passing accuracy for players to record 100+ passes in a match (104/105 completed, since 1966 only). Master. pic.twitter.com/mptLakTfSJ
— OptaJavier (@OptaJavier) March 21, 2018