Messi: Beating Real is the best

Barcelona forward Lionel Messi has warned of Real Madrid's rapid counter-attacking threat as the arch-rivals prepare for a Sunday showdown.

While praising Real Madrid's game, the 25-year-old Argentinian refused, however, to comment on their coach Jose Mourinho, explaining that he had never spoken to him. "Madrid kill you in the counter-attack," Messi said in an interview with El Pais.

"They have very fast forwards and the connection between defence and attack takes five seconds and then it's a goal. They don't need to play well to score three goals. They have a lot of positions for their players who are very good."

Messi said he was friends with two fellow Argentinians in the Real squad - Gonzalo "El Pipita" Higuain and Angel di Maria. "You don't see El Pipita and then he has two kicks and scores twice," he added.

When I retire I want to be remembered as a good guy. I want to score goals but also to have friends among the people I play with.
Lionel Messi, Barcelona forward

The triple FIFA Ballon d'Or winner declined to give his opinion of Mourinho, however.

"I can't say anything. I don't know him, I have never spoken to him," Messi said. "I can only comment on what he has achieved, which is a lot, many titles. I know his players speak well of him but I don't know him."

Barcelona, who lead La Liga, with an eight-point gap over sixth-placed Real, will face their rivals at the Camp Nou on Sunday.

Messi said he could remember every win over Real. "Beating Real Madrid is the best because of the significance, they are a very good team," he said of a clash between Spain's footballing giants that transfixes the nation and is known as El Clásico.

Changing outlook
The Barcelona forward, who is expecting to become a father this month, said winning titles for the team is more important than individual records, such as scoring the most goals.

"I am more worried about being a good person than being the best footballer in the world. Moreover, in the end when it's all over what do you take with you? When I retire I want to be remembered as a good guy. I want to score goals but also to have friends among the people I play with."

Messi lauded Barcelona's new coach Tito Vilanova, the former assistant who was promoted when Pep Guardiola left at the end of last season. Vilanova had hauled Messi off the bench in the days when he coached the Barcelona youth team, the forward revealed.

"Tito was the first to push me to play because until then I was just a sub or I didn't even play and he was the one who more or less put me in the first team in that category," he said.

Messi admitted that impending fatherhood had changed his outlook. "You look at things differently. You no longer think of yourself. You think of him, about him not having any problems of any kind. Yes, it changes things, it changes your concept of things."