Lionel Messi tips Manchester City or PSG for the Champions League, but wants Milan and Inter back in the tournament. “It’s just not the same.”
The Barcelona and Argentina hero spoke to La Gazzetta dello Sport about Italy’s failure to reach the World Cup.
“Italian football isn’t the same as it was, and I think that means a lot more than just Italy not qualifying for the World Cup. For example, two Serie A greats like Milan and Inter aren’t what they were 10 years ago and don’t even enter the Champions League now. That affects all of Italian football.
“They are slowly trying to get back up, but the Milanese clubs must return to being competitive on a European level too. It’s just not the same.
“In my view, Manchester City are the strongest side in the Champions League right now, along with Paris Saint-Germain, but it’s a long season. I also never leave out Real Madrid for what they have and their experience, even if right now they are not getting the results everyone expects.
“Then there’s Bayern Munich, another big club that will be in the fight for the Champions League to the bitter end.”
Messi notably leaves out Juventus, just days after Barcelona drew 0-0 in Turin with the Argentine surprisingly on the bench.
“Obviously I love to play all the time, but it’s a long season and you have to rest every now and then.”
While the Azzurri missed out on the 2018 World Cup, Argentina ran the serious risk of joining them in front of the television.
“Nations like Italy and the Netherlands, who for decades participated in the World Cup, won’t be there in Russia and nobody expected that. But that’s what football is nowadays: even the small nations or clubs, if well-organised, can make life difficult for you.
“Argentina had a tough time too, as we had three Coaches during qualifying and it’s not easy to immediately adapt to all of them. They all had different philosophies and ideas. We’ve had four qualifiers and a few friendlies under Jorge Sampaoli, so must continue the growth process.
“I think Germany are the favourites to win in 2018, but there are also Brazil, Spain and France. Right now, they are the strongest nations.”