National hero Leo Messi has given an exclusive interview to TyC Sports whilst away on international duty with Argentina.
Argentina - who qualified for the 2018 World Cup in Russia by the skin of their teeth - face Russia on Saturday in the official inauguration of the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.
A Messi hat-trick away in Ecuador in their final World Cup qualifier secured their spot at the tournament next summer.
"We suffered a lot to get to Russia 2018," Messi told TyCSports.
"Each time I went back to Barcelona, I was always going over the numbers for what had to happen for us to qualify for the World Cup."
Despite their qualifying struggles, Argentina are in Pot 1 for the World Cup group stage draw which is due to take place on Friday December 1.
La Albiceleste will take on Russia and Nigeria in the upcoming international break and Messi was keen to rubbish suggestions he plays any role in helping pick the national team.
"When they talk about Messi's friends I laugh," he remarked. "They say that I put coaches or players in the Argentina side and it is a lie.
The country Messi hopes to avoid
Spain, England - and potentially Italy - will be in pot two and could both be included in a nightmare draw.
"I would prefer to avoid Spain in the group stage because they are a very difficult opponent," said Messi, as per Marca.
Spain qualified for the World Cup with ease despite going head-to-head with Italy for the single automatic spot.
Argentina and Spain last met in a competitive fixture in 1966 - Argentina won 3-1 in a World Cup group stage match.
Messi has faced Spain on three occasions in international friendlies, scoring the opener in their most recent meeting - a comfortable 4-1 Argentina win in 2010.
However, the Spanish have beaten Argentina in the previous two meetings in which Messi has featured.
Messi moved to Spain at the age of 13 to sign for Barcelona and has since go on to achieve incredible success for the Catalan giants.
The 30-year-old forward has won five Ballon d'Or's and 30 major trophies at Barcelona - but is still yet to win any silverware for his national team.
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