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Xavi: “If Messi didn’t exist, Maradona would’ve been the best ever

Xavi before the home game against Napoli / CADENA SER

After a convincing win in Valencia, Barça will now face Napoli for the return of the Europa League match up. Xavi Hernández and Marc-André Ter Stegen spoke to the press about tomorrow’s game, Ousmane Dembélé and more.

Barça’s goalkeeper Marc-André Ter Stegen was the first to appear in the press room of the Estadio Diego Armando Maradona, which is where tomorrow’s game will be played at 21:00 local time. Here’s what he had to say:

About his recent form:

“I always try to give my best. If I was out of shape, I wouldn’t be on the pitch. I have a lot of responsibility. I’m feeling super good, I’m fine. The team is also in good form and I’m going to give it my best. Sometimes everything works out for me and other times not so much. That’s football. I’m training to give 100% in every game.”

“In all these years I’ve tried to mature as a player, but there are things that you can’t control. If you get injured, you can’t improve. Obviously, this influences things. Until now I haven’t had any injuries, but we have to work to get back to the best level. I try to be in the best condition.”

“I’m good. In the end, I see exactly what I’m doing. I understand that everyone says what’s on their mind. I have to analyze the games and see what I’m doing well. I can change things that I have already experienced before. I’m fine, I’m calm. You guys are doing your job, it doesn’t bother me. I’m going to do mine on the pitch.”

About the team’s improvements:

“We’ve been doing well for a few months now. The identity of our club can now be seen on the pitch. The youngsters are learning the process of having these very important games. We’re trying to win it all. We’re taking a step forward and have improved in many aspects. I’m happy with everyone’s performances.”

About the way Xavi wants the team to play:

“Xavi has a very clear idea of how he wants us to play. He takes inspiration from many things of the past. Each coach has his own ideas, we’re enjoying what we’re doing. We’re convinced of what we’re doing and that gives confidence. Napoli is one of the best teams in Europe. They have a lot of quality and no match is easy, neither in La Liga nor in the Europa League. We have to suffer and do our best to win.”

About Ousmane Dembélé’s situation:

“Everyone makes their own decisions. He has a contract until the end of the year. Now, as a team, we want him to stay with us. He has a lot of quality and we want to take advantage of that. It will be his decision in the end. I don’t get involved in things that aren’t my business. He’s a player who makes a difference and we want him to continue here.”

About the possibility of the game against Napoli going to penalties:

“I’m sure we have good penalty takers. I’m going to try to stop everything that reaches the goal. I’m prepared for everything. The little details mark whether you win or not. I hope we can win in 90 minutes, but otherwise, we’re prepared for everything.”

After Ter Stegen, it was Xavi‘s turn to answer some questions:

About tomorrow’s game against Napoli:

“We’re going into the game like the first one ended in 3-1 or 2-1. We have to dominate. Napoli will put pressure on us and it will be a very intense match. Tomorrow will be a football war. Whoever has the ball will have the best chance of winning. The fans will bring an intense atmosphere. It’s a shame we couldn’t finish it in the home game. We have to be brave and create chances. We’re taking steps forward, but tomorrow will be a difficult test. We’re hopeful and excited.”

“I think they’ll push hard. We want the game to be played on their half. It won’t be easy because they pose high pressure. It’ll be a battle of who has possession of the ball. It’s the Europa League and it’s difficult. Napoli has the level of a Champions League team, but it’s a good test to see if this Barça can compete in Europe.”

About playing in the Estadio Diego Armando Maradona:

“It’s extra motivation. It’s an honour to play in this stadium. Maradona was a reference for everyone. We keep watching videos of him and we keep getting excited. If Messi wouldn’t have appeared, he would have been the best in history. It’s a responsibility and an honour.”

About using players from your own academy:

“I’m not in Naples every day, so I can’t really give an opinion on their academy. We count a lot on ours. These players give us extra commitment. We’ve won titles when we’ve had people from our own academy. That’s why the talents of Gavi, Nico or Araújo, who arrived late, or some veterans like Busquets and Piqué are important. It’s being proved that players who are only 17 or 18 years old can already make a difference.”

About Ousmane Dembélé’s situation:

“We’ll see what happens. Ousmane’s contract ends in June. I see him happy and he has been a great professional. Even when he wasn’t part of the squad, he was a professional. He’s taking care of himself, he trains well, he’s positive towards the rest of the group. That’s why we decided that he should play with the team. If he would’ve been a bad professional, it would be different. Let’s see what happens between now and the end of the season. He is a football player that I like a lot.”

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