Football

What Carles Puyol said to Guardiola when told not to kick Lionel Messi in training

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Name a team quite like Pep Guardiola's old Barcelona side - we'll wait.

Between 2008 and 2012, Blaugrana were simply indomitable on the world stage with a revolutionary style of 'tiki taka' football that encapsulated the beautiful game. 

Guardiola's debut campaign saw Barcelona sweep all before them in a historic treble - culminating in the downing of Manchester United and Cristiano Ronaldo.

And the Champions League capture of 2011, against the same opponents, marked the team's zenith and the title of being the hardest team Sir Alex Ferguson ever faced.

Every side has a star man, though, and there can be little doubting that Lionel Messi was the MVP in Guardiola's golden side. 

After the departure of Samuel Eto'o in 2009 and Thierry Henry's transition out of the first XI, Messi really became the special player we know today in the false nine position. Besides, he finished Guardiola's last season in charge with no less than 73 goals to his name.

One way Messi rose from the ranks at La Masia, into the frame with Frank Rijkaard and later into stardom came from the tough challenges he was given in training - both figuratively and literally.

The likes of Gerard Pique, Eric Abidal and Carles Puyol would give the 30-year-old no special treatment on the training pitch.

Puyol has delved into that very fact in a recent interview with Mundo Deportivo exclusively about the five-time Ballon d'Or winner. He recalled a brilliant story of him completely shutting down Guardiola over Messi's treatment in training.

When asked if he gave Messi extra respect in training, Puyol explained: "He, when he is in the field, is very competitive, he wants to win and he uses all the resources he has, which are not few, and he sure has made me pipes.

"I remember at the beginning of the stage with Pep Guardiola in which we did some short matches. In one of them I decided to make an individual mark and the truth is that I was plunged into misery.

"Even Pep Guardiola told me: 'Do not give him any kick.' And I told him that if he wanted me not to kick him, I'd stop the training. I tried everything and could not do anything.

"You had to be careful not to make a hard entrance, of course, but he has too many resources. We go in slow motion and he goes very fast."

So even if one of the best defenders of his generation wanted to, he simply couldn't dispossess Messi whenever he pleased. 

Regardless, though, whatever Barcelona did in training under Guardiola, it worked perfectly and then some.

Do you think Guardiola's Barcelona is the best team of the 21st Century? Have your say in the comments section below.

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