Primera Division: Lionel Messi says he owes a lot to the Barcelona academy
Lionel Messi has praised Barcelona's academy and says that he is grateful for the opportunities the club have given him.
By Paulo Freitas
Last Updated: 12/03/14 9:08pm
The 26-year-old, who has four Ballon d'Or awards, is into his 10th season as a first teamer at the Nou Camp having joined the youth set-up in 2000.
Injuries have hampered Messi's season, but he has still managed an impressive return of 27 goals in all competitions for Gerardo Martino's side.
The Argentina star is hoping to add to his six La Liga titles and three Champions League medals this year and he believes he owes the Spanish giants for their influence on his career.
"Barcelona have given me everything. I was educated with the values of La Masia and I am what I am, thanks to these values from the academy," he told Barca TV.
Messi's two older brothers, Rodrigo and Matias, failed to make the grade in Spain, but Messi remained determined to succeed despite them returning home.
"My brothers went back to Argentina but I always wanted to stay in Barcelona to fulfil my dream of playing for the first team," he said.
"I was delighted when Barça called me. I was unable to play for six months, as my transfer hadn't come through and when I could get to play, I was injured on my debut. It was a complicated time.
"It's an example to everyone when you see so many players from our youth system in the first team. We're always delighted to see players coming to train with us.
"We want them to enjoy themselves, because that's what this sport is all about."
He added: "I came up through the ranks with Pique and Cesc.
"Cesc was a very important figure in the locker room and Pique was more of a prankster.
"But he's calmer now and has always been really good to me."