Messi and De Jong on new Barcelona season

Lionel Messi and his new team-mate Frenkie de Jong set out their stall for the new campaign.

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On Barcelona's group stage opponents: Dortmund, Inter and Slavia Praha

Lionel Messi: Every year, the Champions [League] is evenly balanced; sometimes it's harder to win. The competition is fairly even and only the best make it here. That's what makes this tournament so special. We got Dortmund, whom we've never played [since I have been here]. I remember seeing their stadium on TV and I've always liked it because of the fans and what the club itself represents. We also got Inter. We faced them last year too on their ground, but I couldn't play because I was injured. It's a difficult group but it's an interesting challenge.

Messi looks ahead to Barcelona challenge
Messi looks ahead to Barcelona challenge

Frenkie de Jong: It's a very tough group. Perhaps it's one of the toughest groups, or the toughest this season. So it'll be difficult, but in the Champions League you always have very strong opponents. We've got to take care to move onto the next stage.

On Barcelona

Messi: I really can't talk about other clubs because I joined Barcelona at a very young age and it's the only thing I know. Barcelona is a very special club because of its philosophy, the way they view football, its academy, the way in which Barcelona approach every match. But above all it comes down to the people at the club and the help they provide.

Watch Frenkie de Jong in action
Watch Frenkie de Jong in action

De Jong: In general, [Barcelona and my old club Ajax] have the same philosophy on how football should be played. The language is different, of course. But the differences aren't that big. What have I learned since coming to Barcelona? I've learned some words in their language. It's hard to say [what else]. It's not like you learn how to shoot the ball into the top corner in three weeks.

Messi on De Jong, De Jong on Messi

Messi: He had a good year in both the Champions League and the [Dutch] league, but above all in the Champions League. He stood out in big matches against top sides. He is a quality player who is very dynamic and intelligent. He has great movement and footwork. Those qualities are very familiar to us and he comes from a similar system to the one we have, which will make it very easy for him to assimilate to playing at Barcelona.

De Jong relishing opportunity of more silverware
De Jong relishing opportunity of more silverware

De Jong: Unfortunately, I haven't trained with [Messi] much yet because he's injured, but I've really enjoyed the times he has been at training. He is the best player I've ever seen play. He is also a really kind person. He is such a natural talent that it's hard to copy him.

On handling pressure

Messi: It's been many years since I became a professional player and you get used to it. There are different types of criticism, some of them bother you; they're taken out of context and they have nothing to do with playing well or badly. However, it's a part of the game, we have to accept it, and we have to think about playing.

De Jong: That's different for everybody. For now, I don't really have problems with pressure, but you never know. All eyes are on [Messi], but for me it's different.

On Messi's UEFA Champions League Goal of the Season – a semi-final free-kick against Liverpool

All of Messi's 2018/19 Champions League goals
All of Messi's 2018/19 Champions League goals

Messi: I tried to strike it like I try to strike every free-kick. It was a bit further out than usual, I hit it with a lot of power; sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. I had luck on my side that time and it went in.

De Jong: I've seen the match. When it ended 3-0, I thought [Barcelona] would make it [to the final] but unfortunately not. And unfortunately not for [Ajax] against Tottenham either. But as a result, I think that me and all the people at Barcelona will be highly motivated to reach the final [this season].

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