Buenos Aires: Lionel Messi wants to change the Barcelona “chip” in his head to an Argentina one to do well at the World Cup, the national captain said on Tuesday.
Messi told reporters on arrival in Buenos Aires that he would try to put a disappointing season in Spain behind him with Barcelona failing to win a major trophy for the first time in six years.
“Now I must think of the national team and change my chip,” Messi, who signed a new contract with Barcelona on Monday, said.
“Many times it was the reverse, I’d go to Barcelona and play well, let’s hope it’s the other way round. When I join my friends at the (Argentine FA training) complex it’ll be another story… I have a point to prove.”
Before Messi won over Argentina fans with his performances in the World Cup qualifiers, he was criticised in his home country for not replicating his Barcelona form in the light blue and white striped national shirt.
Messi headed from Ezeiza international airport on the outskirts of the capital to his home town of Rosario for a break before beginning training next week under coach Alejandro Sabella for the tournament in Brazil starting on June 12.
“This wasn’t my best season, I’d have liked to finish it differently but it was the whole (Barcelona) group, not only at an individual level, rather a slump of the whole team,” said Messi, surrounded by reporters with microphones and cameras and autograph-hunting fans in the arrivals sector at Ezeiza.
Coach Gerardo Martino, also from Rosario, resigned after Barcelona lost their last chance to win La Liga when they were held 1-1 by a title-clinching Atletico Madrid at the Nou Camp on Saturday.
“I hope that when I get together with my Argentina teammates my head will change because it was a complicated season.
“We had the chance to win the La Liga, but we couldn’t. I went through a lot of things at a personal level, it wasn’t easy with the injuries.”
Messi, who suffered hamstring problems, suffered a drop in form from the high standards he set in previous seasons, but he hopes to be back to his clinical best to lead Argentina to a third world title in Brazil.
“Let’s hope we can reach our objective,” added Messi whose team play in Group F against Bosnia in Rio de Janeiro on June 15, Iran in Belo Horizonte on June 21 and Nigeria in Porto Alegre on June 25.
Messi has signed a restructured contract extension with Barcelona that reportedly makes the Argentina international the world’s highest-paid football player.
Barcelona had originally announced the deal on Friday and says it was officially signed on Monday. The Catalan club says Messi “was very motivated by the deal.”
The 26-year-old Messi will earn a reported $27 million per season with further incentives able to drive the deal up to $34 million per year until the contract ends in 2017-18 — surpassing Cristiano Ronaldo’s deal with Real Madrid. Messi also has a buy-out clause of $343 million.
Messi’s previous contract ran through the 2017-18 season and was worth a reported $22 million per season. Since Messi made his debut in the 2004-05 season, Barca have won 21 titles, including three Champions Leagues and six La Liga crowns.
He joined Barca’s academy at the age of 13 after a spell at Newell’s Old Boys.
Messi and his father last year paid five million euros to the Spanish authorities as a “corrective payment” after they were accused of filing false tax returns. (agencies)