Story By: Juan Mayes, Sub Editor: Joseph Golder, Agency: Golder’s News And Sport
Legendary Argentina defender Roberto Ayala has revealed Lionel Messi “practically did not speak” and always “stayed in his room” early in his career but has “grown a lot and is a leader” now.
Valencia legend Ayala, 47, made the comments while speaking to online media outlet ‘90min.com’ where he praised Barcelona superstar Messi, 32, for becoming a leader “on and off the pitch”.
Ayala said Messi “is a normal guy and likes to be treated like anybody else. He is a very friendly person and has grown a lot recently. Today, he is a leader on and off the pitch and speaks when necessary.”
Ayala and Messi played together in the Argentina national team between 2005 and 2007. When speaking about their time together, he said: “He (Messi) practically didn’t speak.
“He’d actually come out to train because it was obligatory, if not he would stay in his room. Now, he participates in everything, speaks to teammates, asks them how they are before matches.
“He also does things in silence that help the squad.”
When asked about the potential move of Inter Milan striker Lautaro Martinez to Barcelona he said: “It’s great when you have groups in clubs” referring to having two Argentine internationals in the same squad, adding “they understand each other better in the national team.
“Lautaro has to see if it is to his benefit or not. He is in a very good club right now and doing a good job. What we want is for footballers to be at a high level.”
Ayala has been part of Argentina boss Lionel Scaloni’s technical staff working as a field assistant since January of last year.
He is regarded as one of the best central defenders of his generation and captained the Argentina team for a record 63 matches with a total of 115 caps, the fourth-most in Argentine history.
Ayala played for Valencia between 2000-2007 helping them win La Liga twice and one UEFA Cup in 2004. He also played at AC Milan winning Serie A in 1999.
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