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Lionel Messi

'My body is feeling the strain' - Messi happy to start off the bench for Barca

1:33 PM EST 12/6/17
Lionel Messi Barcelona Sporting Champions League
The Argentine wizard has been left out for his club's last two Champions League outings but believes rest is vital at this stage in his career

Lionel Messi has affirmed that he has no problem with sitting out certain games for Barcelona, after featuring on the bench in recent weeks. 

The Argentina captain has played almost every minute possible with his team when fit, and was almost never benched during Luis Enrique's tenure at Camp Nou. 

Ernesto Valverde, however, has left Messi as a substitute for Barca's last two Champions League outings, away to Juventus and in Tuesday's home win over Sporting

While it has been a shock to see Leo out of the starting line-up, the player himself is convinced that it is for the best as he looks to reach the end of the season in top condition. 

"I have come to understand that the season is long and that some periods are more important than others. Years ago my body didn't feel it but now it starts to feel the strain," he explained during an interview with TyC Sports.

"Of course it is tough being a sub, but I have come to understand it is for the best."

One of the big motivating forces for Messi to stay fresh come June is the 2018 World Cup, which kicks off weeks after the domestic season comes to a close. 

Having helped Argentina to the 2014 final and also played a key role in their tortuous qualifying campaign, the captain is demanding a vast improvement from himself and his team-mates in Russia

"I think we have enough time to improve in the upcoming games and before the World Cup, we will have a month to prepare and leave everything in place for the start," he said. 

"We have had some good games, or good spells under Sampaoli. We haven't had that many games with him, either. The pressure and need to win also played a part. 

"It is not easy to play like that, with a lot of new kids, a lot of kids who weren't used to that kind of situation with the national team, that makes you play differently. 

"But it is true that we have to improve if we want to be world champions. The way we are playing now we will not get even close. Right now there are better teams than us, like Brazil, Germany, France and Spain."