One of the most revered and decorated players in world football, Lionel Messi claimed a sixth domestic title with FC Barcelona last term. However, there is a burning desire for this season to be even better as he aims for his fourth UEFA Champions League winners' medal.
For the second campaign running, Barcelona fell in the semi-finals to the eventual winners in May, though it was a heavy 7-0 aggregate defeat by FC Bayern München rather than the narrow loss to Chelsea FC of 12 months previously. It is that reverse, as much as anything, that drives Messi on as he enters 2013/14. The forward tells UEFA.com about Barça's desire and their UEFA Champions League group of AFC Ajax, Celtic FC and AC Milan.
UEFA.com: You have won so much – how do you keep that hunger going?
Lionel Messi: We always want to achieve more. Winning the league was very important because of what it signified – winning it back after Real Madrid had won it last year. There's also a bitter taste after what happened in the semi-final against Bayern München, where there was a big gap between the two teams – we didn't go into it in our best shape. But that's the past and we have to look forward.
UEFA.com: What went wrong against Bayern?
Messi: They were just the better team in all respects, physically and in football terms too. They just played a great first leg, and had the advantage over the tie, so they were really superior to us.
UEFA.com: Bayern's Franck Ribéry pipped you to the 2012/13 UEFA Best Player in Europe Award last month – were you a bit disappointed not to win after your own great season?
Messi: No, not at all. It was an honour to be in this race again, among the best three players in Europe. There are so many great players in the world and it is a real pleasure to be in the competition, but he deserved to win the trophy.
UEFA.com: What do you think about your draw – Group H with Ajax, Celtic and Milan?
Messi: It's a difficult group, but we knew that would be the case. It's very difficult to win the Champions League – it's already hard from the start. I think the groups are very even, very balanced, so there will be some great games. We hope to play at our best level to be able to qualify.
There are top-class, historic teams in our group – big names. Teams that we've faced before, so we know them a bit. Maybe not so with Ajax, but we've watched them. It's an exciting group.
UEFA.com: Barcelona have a new coach in Gerardo Martino from your Argentinian home city of Rosario ...
Messi: Our adaptation with the new coach has been very quick. We try to do what he's asking – play football the way we always did. Of course he's a new coach with new ideas, but our mentality is the same as ever: start in the best possible way to be able to win all the trophies we're playing for.
We try to give our fans the best, as we've always done. We know we need each other's support and hopefully this will be a year where we can celebrate together.
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