Messi: I have yet to reach my peak
Barcelona forward Lionel Messi has claimed that he has yet to reach his peak as a player and that there is still far more to come from him.
The Argentina international claimed his third successive Ballon d'Or earlier this year and his sublime strike in the Blaugrana's 2-0 victory over Sevilla on Saturday night took his goals tally for the season to 51 in all competitions.
However, the 24-year-old is warning opposition defenders that he is only going to get better in the coming years.
"Year after year I've grown and improved," he is quoted as saying by The Sun. "I was lucky to start very young and I always had very good colleagues around me as I was growing up and this has helped me and how I play.
"Even now I think there is a lot more to come from me. I'm nowhere near my peak. I'm still young and still evolving as a player.
"I will never stop learning. Even when I finish playing I will never say: 'I thought I was the complete player' because the older you become the more experience you gain. The older you become, the better you become.
"Under Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola, I have learned to play more tactically, which is what I most needed - what my game needed.
"From the tactical point of view it's been about knowing how to stop and think on the field when we don't have the ball. And that makes us better when we have it."
Messi famously left his native Rosario at 13 to make the move to Barcelona and he believes that the difficult decisions he had to make as a youngster have made him the player he is today.
"I always wanted to play professionally and I always knew that to do that I'd have to make an awful lot of sacrifices," he explained.
"I made sacrifices by leaving Argentina, leaving my family to start a new life. I changed my friends, my people. Everything. But everything I did, I did for football; to achieve my dream.
"That's why I didn't go out partying, or do a lot of other things. I've always really liked football and I've always devoted a lot of time to it.
"When I was a kid, my friends would call me to go out with them but I would stay at home because I had practice the next day.
"Nothing has changed since I was young. My friends would go out and I would stay at home.
"But not for nothing, because I knew it had to be that way and, at that moment, I was totally dedicated to football."
Messi, who has already won five La Liga titles and three Champions League crowns, also revealed that his intense love of the game means that he takes defeats hard.
"I am very competitive and I feel really bad when we lose," he admitted. "You can see it in me when we've lost, I'm in a very bad way.
"I don't like to talk to anyone. I just retreat into myself and go over the game in my head: the things that went wrong, what I did wrong, why we didn't win. Sometimes it can be torture."
"I play the same, always the same whether it's a friendly, or for points, or a final, or any game - I play the same.
"I'm always trying to be at my best, first for my team, for myself, for the fans, and to try and win. I cannot play any differently. I always want to win, no matter what."
Messi's next outing for Barca is likely to be against Granada at Camp Nou on Tuesday night.