Ernesto Valverde Lionel Messi Barcelona 2019-20Getty Images

'Messi can't be compared with anyone' - Barca talisman is a 'very easy player to coach', says Valverde

Lionel Messi "can't be compared with anyone", according to Ernesto Valverde, who says the Barcelona superstar is a very easy player to coach.

Valverde spent two-and-a-half years in the Camp Nou hot-seat before being relieved of his managerial duties in January, helping the club win four major trophies in total including back-to-back La Liga titles.

Messi was the architect behind Barca's success during that period, as he has been for arguably the entirety of his 16-year career in Catalonia.

Article continues below

The diminutive Argentine scored 96 goals in his first two seasons under Valverde's stewardship, and was awarded the Ballon d'Or for a record-breaking sixth time in 2020.

Valverde ultimately paid for Barca's lack of Champions League success with his job, but was always able to get the best out of Messi despite being faced with constant criticism over the team's style of play.

"Messi can't be compared with anyone," the 56-year-old manager said during a conference with the Basque Football Federation and the Basque Committee of Coaches.

"It's very difficult to tell him if you've seen this or another player when he does things in training that you haven't seen yourself.

"Many times, from the touchline, you're always thinking what can be the best option and, ultimately, he sees it much better than you from on the pitch.

"Messi is a very easy player to coach because he also has a great impulse with respect to the team. He has a great ambition to win, he always feels such an obligation to the game as for the club. He transmits that to the group and it forces everyone to be at a higher level.

"Seeing him play is impressive from afar... but even more so from up close."

Lionel Messi Barcelona 2019-20

Barca's over-reliance on Messi became apparent last year, and the board eventually opted to bring in Quique Setien to replace Valverde with a view to restoring the club's 'tiki-taka' possession-based philosophy.

Valverde went on to defend how he set up the team during his time at Camp Nou, insisting he always urged his players to be "aggressive" with and without the ball.

"It's about trying to be superior to a rival and dominate in the game, which is having more chances than your opponent and they have fewer than you," he added.

"There are times when you have possession and not chances and without chances, you don't have that dominance, but to have chances, you have to have the ball.

"I like being the master of the ball because you take it off your opponent. The question then is if you're deep or not with that ball. Each person has to see how they feel at ease to be able to get their message across.

"Ultimately, possession is a way to win a game. It's a bit magnified by the media, but it's nothing more than criteria. If you want to be aggressive with the ball, you also have to be aggressive without it.

"In my case, it's about wanting to take the initiative of the game and that happens because the opponent don't want to play."