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Lionel Messi

‘Maybe Messi isn’t as decisive as he used to be’ – Barcelona star still ‘spectacular’, admits Athletic legend Yeste

18:48 EAT 06/02/2020
Lionel Messi Barcelona 2019-20
A man who once graced the same La Liga stage as the Argentine icon feels the six-time Ballon d’Or winner could be slowing down at 32 years of age

Lionel Messi remains a “spectacular” talent, admits Athletic Club legend Francisco Yeste, but the Barcelona star is maybe “not as decisive as he used to be” at 32 years of age.

The Argentine icon proved himself to be the finest player on the planet again in 2019, with a sixth Ballon d’Or added to his remarkable collection.

Maintaining those standards is never easy, but Messi has achieved that over the course of his stunning career and has another 19 goals to his name in the current campaign.

Barcelona have struggled for inspiration at times, though, with Ernesto Valverde relieved of his duties as the weight of coaching expectation is passed to Quique Setien.

Messi will remain under pressure to deliver when it matters most, and can be relied upon to step up in moments of need, but Yeste feels an all-time great may be slowing down slightly.

A man who once graced the same La Liga stage during an 11-year spell with Athletic, told Goal: “Messi has had many years at the highest level and I think he still has that level, but perhaps he is not as decisive as he used to be. His performances are still spectacular though.”

Yeste added on the insatiable desire of a modern-day legend to achieve continuous improvement: “Messi as a free-kick taker has improved a lot in recent years.

“I've read about him admitting that he has worked so hard on becoming more effective in that area, and he did it.

“He is now very effective in that aspect, as he is in most other departments, and is the best in the world.”

Barcelona need Messi to keep proving that, with Yeste surprised that the Catalan giants took the decision to part with Valverde after savouring back-to-back title triumphs under the former Athletic player and coach.

“I don't understand Barcelona’s decision on Valverde,” added the 40-year-old.

“He is such a great professional and always showed a lot of respect to the players and the club.

“It is true that maybe the team wasn't playing that good but their stats were still impressive.

“Maybe the Champions League defeats had a big influence on that decision, but he had great qualities for Barcelona.”

Barca’s next outing is set to see them take in a trip to Bilbao to face Athletic in the quarter-finals of the Copa del Rey.

Yeste admits that his former side face a big ask to reach the last four, but believes anything is possible in a one-off encounter.

He added: “For Athletic it is going to be very hard because this is a tough rival, but they have already shown they can defeat this Barcelona side so why can't they do it again?”