Martino hails Messi as best player in the world despite Ballon d’Or setback
Barcelona manager Gerardo Martino has hailed Lionel Messi as the best player in the world only a day after his arch rival Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo lifted the 2013 Ballon d’Or to end the Argentinean forward’s four-year run of winning the coveted award.
A year filled with injuries played a big role in breaking Messi’s Ballon d’Or streak. The 26-year-old Argentina international was runners up at the Ballon d’Or ceremony in Zurich on Monday. Ronaldo, who took great advantage of the additional period for the Ballon d’Or results, won the award with clear margin.
Martino told reporters in his news conference on Wednesday that to him Messi was still the best player in the world. Martino also said that he expects Messi to be in the running next year as well.
“First, I must congratulate Cristiano Ronaldo and all the people who won, as it is an important prize. It is the recognition of the work done during a year,” Martino said. “But the winner over one year is one thing, and a different thing is the best player in the world -- we have him here. What he wants is for things to go well at Barcelona, and then with Argentina. From there the Ballon d’Or will be evaluated. But he is thinking first about being a decisive player for his club and country.”
Messi returned to action after a two-month long absence in first leg of the last 16 of Copa del Rey against Getafe. The forward scored twice in injury time after coming off the bench. However, the Barcelona bred player was unable to make a strong impact in the goalless draw against Atletico Madrid in La Liga last Saturday.
Martino admits Messi is slowly returning to full fitness, although he wasn’t sure whether he would have the coveted forward ready to start against Getafe in the second leg of Copa del Rey on Thursday.
“It is different now than last week,” Martino said. “He has a lot of training done now, and has a much bigger chance of starting a game as he has a bigger chance of finishing a game.”
Martino added that he doesn’t want to risk Messi’s fitness levels and wants him in prime physical condition before he set off to making first team appearances once again.