Lucas Digne enjoyed his time working alongside “best in the world” Lionel Messi at Barcelona, but admits to having pleaded with the Liga giants to let him join Everton.
The France international spent two years at Camp Nou after being snapped up from Paris Saint-Germain in 2016.
A spell in Catalunya helped the 25-year-old to further his development, but a lack of game time – amid fierce competition for places from Jordi Alba – saw him struggle to make his mark.
As a result, when the opportunity arose to move to England in an £22 million deal ($29m), Digne jumped at the chance to bid farewell to Messi and Co.
He told the Mirror: “Training alongside great players has made me better – but, for me, Messi is the best in the world.
“Messi is pure talent. He sees everything before anybody else. You know what he wants to do, but you just can’t stop it.
“You close his left foot, he goes to the right. You close the right side, he goes with his left.
“We trained every day for two years and it was crazy.
“I also played against him twice for Roma against Barcelona. Let’s just say it was a hard game!”
Digne added on his decision to link up with Everton: “Of course, Barca is the biggest club in the world – and everybody knows that. But I came to Everton because I felt there was a very good project here.
“I had such a good feeling about the club that I said to Barcelona, ‘Please let me leave to go to join Everton because it’s the best thing for me and my career.’
“In the beginning, they didn’t want to sell me. But when the coach Marco Silva called me I had such a good feeling. I knew I wanted to come Goodison Park.
“Now I am here, I want to win a lot of games and, if it’s possible, a trophy too.”
Digne has made just three appearances for Everton to date, but he has already endeared himself to the Toffees faithful by revealing that he has previously snubbed interest from Merseyside rivals Liverpool.
“I can tell you that I said ‘no’ to Liverpool twice – because it’s true,” he said
“Everton fans have sent me a lot of messages on Twitter about it. It was a good start for me here, but I am only telling the truth.
“The first time Liverpool asked about me was when I was a young boy and I went to Paris from Lille. The second time was when I went to Barcelona.”