Three days prior to that latest show-stopping display, the Rosario-born superstar travelled to Zurich for the FIFA Ballon d’Or ceremony, where he made time to speak exclusively to . On the agenda were his recovery efforts back in his homeland, how nervous he gets when watching and current form and prospects for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™.
Yes, it really was a strange year. Having already been less than 100 per cent [fitness-wise] for the league championship run-in and the semi-finals of the Champions League, I also missed [a portion of] the start of this season. So you could say that, yes, the injury was the only downside of last year.
It was tough, to be honest, very tough. But the fact that I went to and put a bit of distance between myself and the dressing room, and all the fuss that goes with it – to put it that way – did me a lot of good. Putting aside the bad stuff, the two months I couldn’t play did me a lot of good physically. I’m trying to see the positive side of it.
Everything! My friends, my family. Just being there, the simple fact of being in my home and being able to enjoy it after such a long time, is good for me.
Yes, just like I can in Barcelona. (Smiles) No, no… I try to go from house to house, to the houses of friends and relatives. I don’t go out on the streets much.
Yes, of course. I’m much more nervous [watching] than when I’m on the field. The fact you’re on the outside looking in and not on the inside able to lend a hand makes it all that much worse.
No, to be honest I was very relaxed, working away at the [de Ezeiza – the Argentinian Football Association’s training facility]. Then I went back home [to Rosario] and kept working the same way, with everything going really well. In physical and mental terms I’m in good shape for these coming six months. I think it [the time in ] went well, though I can’t say I had much contact with people, as I was more focused on my recovery. I even ended up sleeping at the – as if I’d been called up for a squad get-together. I only had one thing on my mind.
Yes, of course. Though there are a still a few months left and it seems quite far away, it’ll be on us before we know it. But we’ve got lots of important challenges before that: the Champions League, trying to retain the La Liga title, the Copa del Rey. We’re taking things one step at a time but, to tell the truth, the World Cup’s on all of our minds already.
Yes, yes… it’s true, and we are in good form at the moment. We weren’t doing all that well in qualifying until we won away in Colombia, but then we had a great campaign. It was a major turnaround and a very positive thing for us. It’s a very good group of players and we all get on very well. It might just be our year but once the World Cup starts anything can happen, it’s very difficult. But I do think that we’re in good form.
Yes, definitely. I can clearly remember our match at the U-20 World Cup [in the Netherlands in 2005], when we beat them 2-1 in the semi-finals. That’s because of how much that game meant, because I was fortunate enough to score a goal and because the win put us in the final. And it was also one of the first titles I won. It’s a really beautiful memory.
World Cup games are totally different. Right from the off, the atmosphere and the build-up make it different to any other competition. While the Champions League is great, the World Cup is special.
There’s been a lot of talk about how easy it’s going to be, that are bound to go through comfortably, but it’s a World Cup and there are no easy teams. If they’re there it’s because they deserve to be – there are no straightforward matches at a World Cup.