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Valverde relieved to have 'unique' Messi on his team

8:28 AM EDT 7/17/17
Lionel Messi
Having the Argentine on his side rather than preparing a team to face him is a relief for new Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde.

Ernesto Valverde says it will be a relief to have the "unique" Lionel Messi on his side, rather than coming up with plans to stop the Barcelona superstar.

Barca did the double over Valverde's Athletic Bilbao in La Liga last season, while Messi also curled in a free-kick winner to knock Athletic out of the Copa Del Rey in January.

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Prior to that, Messi hit a brace in the final of the 2015 Copa Del Rey against Valverde's Basque side and the new Barca coach he is glad he will no longer need to face the Argentine. 

"Of course Messi is a unique player and he will have a role whereby he can play in any position and play well," Valverde told reporters on Monday. "Regardless of how we start the game, he will end up in defined positions.

"It's a feeling of relief [to coach him]. When you're sitting on the opposition bench you see that you're lacking the players it takes to stop him."

Like Messi, Andres Iniesta has spent his entire professional career at Barcelona after coming through the club's world-famous La Masia academy.

The 33-year-old midfielder - who made just 13 starts in La Liga last season - has regularly indicated he wants to retire at Barca, but Valverde is not concerned that Iniesta is now in the last year of his contract.

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"It's very early to be worrying about that," Valverde said. "The important thing is that Iniesta is happy in the team, then we'll see what the season brings. He's a player of a level that's difficult to find elsewhere."