LIONEL MESSI today reveals the incredible sacrifices he has made to turn himself into the greatest player on the planet.
In his most emotive interview ever, the little Barcelona superstar explains how he:
ABANDONED his family in Argentina to start a new life abroad.
DUMPED all his friends.
REFUSED all invitations to go out partying.
Is TORTURED by losing.
Would play the game for FREE.
And, worryingly for every defender in the game, he insists he still has not reached his peak.
Messi is not only the best in the world — winning three successive Ballon d'Or awards — but also the highest paid, with an annual salary fast approaching £30million.
The 24-year-old, 5ft 5in Argentinian striker maintains it is his dedication to the game from a very early age that has played a key part in his success.
He declared: "I always wanted to play professionally and I always knew that to do that I'd have to make an awful lot of sacrifices.
"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."
His dedication has earned him three Champions League winners' medals, two FIFA Club World Cups, two UEFA Super Cups, five La Liga titles, one Copa del Rey and five Supercopa de Espanas plus a host of individual awards.
His goal in the 2-0 win at Seville last night made it a phenomenal 51 goals for club and country in just 45 games.
And, frighteningly, and with football fans already debating whether he is the best player the game has ever seen, Messi believes he will get even better.
He declared: "Year after year I've grown and improved.
"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."
Although Messi is the highest-paid player in the game, he maintains that money has never motivated him.
He said: "Money is not a motivating factor. Money doesn't thrill me or make me play better because there are benefits to being wealthy.
"I'm just happy with a ball at my feet. My motivation comes from playing the game I love. If I wasn't paid to be a professional footballer I would willingly play for nothing."
However, Messi does admit he is a very sore loser.
"I am very competitive and I feel really bad when we lose," he said.
"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."
And Messi openly admits he is so competitive that he pushes himself to the limit no matter what the circumstances.
He added: "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."