Former Valencia and FC Barcelona midfielder Gaizka Mendieta says that the Catalan club has rediscovered its identity and the change that is evident in Argentine Leo Messi.
Mendieta played alongside Luis Enrique for the Spain national side as well as Barcelona whilst on loan during the 2002/3 season where he played 44 games netting 4 goals and praises his ex teammate for revitalising Messi along with getting the club back on track with its own identity.
Under Luis Enrique, Messi has been tasked with creating more chances as well as finding the net whilst playing a more deeper role than usual.The Argentine has responded well and it shows.
Messi has now moved to within one goal of Telmo Zarra’s all-time La Liga record of 251 goals in last weekend’s 3-0 thrashing of Eibar.
Mendieta told Goal: “As soon as they lose it, we are seeing a brighter, fitter Messi.” “He is accepting his new role in the team. Messi is used to scoring lots of goals but he has accepted he has to play a bit deeper and be the passer rather than the finisher.
“Luis Enrique, with his communication with the players, has made it his Barca, which is important when it is your first season.”
After a terrible year under Tata Martino, Mendieta feels that Luis Enrique has put Barça back on course for great things again.
Mendieta went on: “We saw with Martino, it was a team where he tried to change the idea of how Barca plays, with possession, getting the ball quick, having higher pressure and Martino tried to get more counter attacks, more diagonal balls, which didn’t quite work for Barca.”
“Luis Enrique had a pre-season. He has stopped them travelling all over the place, he has had 20 days, a month of proper training to prepare for the season.
“So the club said OK, you want it, you have it. I think we can see the results now. Barça plays high, gets the ball very quickly.”
The Catalan giants face Ajax in their third UEFA Champions League group game tonight and will want to impress their mark and come away with a win before they face Real Madrid on Saturday for the much awaited first Clasico game of the season.