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Lionel Messi not distracted by Pep Guardiola's return to Barcelona

05/05/2015

Lionel Messi says making the Champions League final, not getting one over former coach Pep Guardiola, is the main motivation for Barcelona ahead of Wednesday's Champions League semifinal first leg at home to Bayern Munich.

Guardiola's return is set to be an emotional occasion as the current Bayern boss takes on a club where he was a hero as both player and coach.

He was a home-grown midfielder on the pitch, then the architect of a team which won a phenomenal 14 trophies in his four seasons on the bench from 2008-09 to 2011-12.

Messi was that team's superstar -- scoring more than 200 goals during his four seasons under Guaridola, including one each in both of the team's victorious Champions League finals, while also claiming four consecutive Ballon d'Or awards between 2009 and 2012.

The Argentina captain told the pregame news conference that it was sure to be a special night, but the team's thirst for silverware came above any personal feelings he or his teammates might have.

"I do not know if it is the most special moment, but it is very important, as we are close to the final," Messi said. "That is why it is special -- we are fighting for all the trophies we set out to win at the start of season. The motivation comes from the game that it is -- we want to play the game, and to reach another final."

The likely reception for Guardiola would be emotional before kickoff, Messi accepted, but he said it would not be a factor once play had begun.

"A phenomenal reception is normal for what Pep means -- for what he won when he was here, for being from this place," he said. "But once the game starts that is not so important, it will be a game like any other."

While saying he had learnt a lot while playing under Guardiola during their four years together, Messi doubted whether Pep's intimate knowledge of the Barca team would be an advantage for the Bundesliga champions.

"I grew and improved so much as a player during Guardiola's time here, and won all the trophies, which is the most important," Messi said. "He knows everybody well, he was a long time with us. We experienced many important things together. Not just me, but all the players.

"We know him too -- he is a coach who studies everything, nothing happens by chance. It is the same for both sides. He knows us very well, and we know him very well, what he asks from his players. It is 50/50."

Messi admitted that he and Guardiola had only spoken once, and briefly, in the three years since the latter left Barca.

"The truth is that since he left we have not... well once we met at a FIFA gala," he said. "But apart from that we have not been in touch. We had a very good relationship when he was here, but not much contact since."

An invitation from a local reporter to compare his current coach Luis Enrique with Guardiola, was declined by Messi.

"I always say I do not compare coaches, as they all have their ideas, their way of doing things," he said. "It is normal that things change when a new coach comes in with their own different things, some similar, some not. Personally I believe both are very close to the player, to make a good group, and have everyone happy."

The relationship between Barca's present coach and superstar was now fine, with no lingering issues from their difficult period just after Christmas, Messi maintained.

"In that moment I cleared up what had happened, we have had no more problems," he said. "Today we get on fine, normal, just like with other players. There is no problem. The team is improving over time, have picked up things the coach wants. We are very relaxed. There is not long left for everything to finish, we are very close, but there are still important and difficult games to play."

Barca lost 7-0 on aggregate to Bayern when the teams met at this stage of the competition two years ago, and Messi was struggling with a thigh injury.

He admitted that had been a painful experience, but that injuries were not an excuse for Barca then, nor would they be for Bayern now.

"We are looking forward to the game, for what it means, another semi-final, against a great team like Bayern," he said.

"It hurt us how that semifinal ended, how we fell. Lot of time has passed, but it will be a totally different game tomorrow. [Injuries] were not excuse for us then, and not for Bayern now."

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