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The Barcelona star is a source of great inspiration for his international team-mates

Rodrigo De Paul has admitted he’d go to war for Argentina captain Lionel Messi and revealed a lighter side to the Barcelona star. 

Messi was first named captain of his nation in 2011 and has also been handed the armband at Camp Nou. 

De Paul, who earned his first international cap in 2018 and plays at club level for Udinese, has emerged as a regular for Argentina over the past year and has clearly savoured playing alongside Messi.

While the six-time Ballon d’Or winner could overawe his team-mates, De Paul stressed Messi’s openness has made him an ideal leader. 

“You look up to him obviously, but when you start sharing things with him, he is so transparent that instead of telling him what you think of him, you feel more like asking him about his little kids or of reminding him of the time he took you out with his studs up in a Valencia-Barcelona game,” De Paul told FIFA.com.

“When he becomes your captain, you’d go to war for him if he asked you to.

“The key thing is that everyone knows what they’re expected to do, nobody is trying to hog the headlines. The only untouchable one is Leo. The rest of us contribute by doing whatever is asked of us.”

While Messi has become an important leader for Argentina, he’s still up for a few jokes with De Paul, who has been dubbed the team’s biggest joker. 

“That’s what they say, but sometimes I’ll just throw an idea out and some others will quickly run with it…Tucu Pereyra, Leo Paredes…Even Messi himself will join in – I’m not the only one,” he said. 

De Paul was also quick to defend Argentina manager Lionel Scaloni, who has often been criticised by fans and pundits for his bold team selection.

“He may lack experience as a head coach, but he has 30 years’ experience of the dressing room,” De Paul said.

“He understands how groups work, knows his trade, came up through the national youth teams, played at a World Cup.

“I don’t know how many people would have had the determination to implement the changes he made or to call up players not among the top teams in world football.” 

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October 1, 2020
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