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La Liga defender welcomes Messi’s possible Barcelona return: “He deserves it”

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Photo by PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/AFP via Getty Images

Speaking in an interview with SPORT, Rayo Vallecano defender Ivan Balliu has welcomed the possibility of Lionel Messi returning to FC Barcelona in the summer, stating that the Argentine deserves to end up at the Catalan outfit.

Barcelona will be facing Rayo Vallecano in La Liga on Wednesday night and Balliu, who spent close to a decade within the La Masia ranks, opened up on the rumours of Messi being linked with a return to Spotify Camp Nou in the summer.

“He deserves to end up at Barça. He will be welcome. Anything that would make La Liga grow…,” Balliu said.

When questioned about whether Messi can cope at the age of 36, the Rayo Vallecano ace replied: “Look at the World Cup the guy has played, these players always perform and he has Gavi to run.”

Building on that, Balliu also had some words of praise for Gavi, as he said: “It’s incredible, with how young he is and the personality he has, which they don’t teach you at Barça. You either have it or you don’t.”

When asked who among Gavi and Vinicius Jr would he prefer to defend against, the former La Masia ace replied: “Vinicius is probably, along with Dembélé, the player who demands the most from you when it comes to marking him.

“Also Abde, with a similar profile. You have to be on top of them and you can’t give them space. But as a full-back, I prefer to have a reference player, a pure open winger, rather than one who goes inside and gives space to the full-back. It always creates more doubts.”

Talking about Barcelona and their campaign, Balliu highlighted how solid the Blaugrana were while also stating that they were not as dominant as Pep Guardiola’s all-conquering team from the last decade.

“Barça play very well and have kept a clean sheet many times, which is the most important thing in football, especially if you have the quality they have up front. And if Barça haven’t played well, look at the other teams,” he said.

“Of course, they’re not as dominant as Pep’s Barça and the results aren’t as big, but it’s just that teams also compete.”

Talking about what went wrong for the Blaugrana in Europe, Balliu said: “They were unlucky, they also had injury problems in key matches… It’s a very new team, with very young players. I am sure that next year they will compete much better.

“Football is becoming more and more physical and in some games Barça have looked a little tighter there, but it’s a question of time.”

There was also praise for manager Xavi Hernandez for the work he has done since taking over the reins at Spotify Camp Nou, as he said:

“It’s a demanding club and so are the people, but Xavi is doing a spectacular job. He took a team that was in a very bad way and in the end he’s put his hand to it, changed the idea of everything, and is close to La Liga, the main objective.”

Opening up on why he could not break into the first-team setup at Barcelona, the right-back said: “Well, there was Dani Alves, but not everything ends at Barça.”

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