Valverde: Messi's 'competitive spirit' his best attribute

The Barcelona boss heaped praise on the five-time Ballon d'Or winner, who leads La Liga in scoring and has his club top of the table

Ernesto Valverde lauded the competitiveness of Lionel Messi as he named the Barcelona superstar's finest asset. 

Messi is regarded as one of the greatest players of all time, having won five Ballons d'Or and 32 titles with La Liga giants Barcelona. 

The skillful 31-year-old attacker – Barca's all-time leading scorer – is enjoying another prolific campaign thanks to 21 goals in all competitions, including a league-high 15 in La Liga. 

The Argentina international has also rolled up 10 assists, with team-mate Luis Suarez second only to Messi in the league scoring charts.  

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Barcelona are top of the table at the turn of the year, three points better than Atletico Madrid, who sit second, and eight better than rivals Real Madrid, who currently sit fourth and hold a game in hand.  

 And Valverde says it’s the competitive spirit of his star man that sets him apart from the rest of the competition. 

"What I'd most highlight about Leo Messi is his huge sense of responsibility for the team,” he told Barca TV . “It shows in every game in every competition. 

"What he does is not only difficult, but he does it again and again … That takes enormous mental strength. 

"I have never known anyone with such an amazing competitive spirit." 

The manager was also full of praise for Ousmane Dembele. 

The 21-year-old had his struggles through 2018 but came alive a bit at the end of the year. Dembele scored three times in the club’s final four matches before Christmas, including the only goal for his side in a 1-1 Champions League draw with Tottenham to close out the group stage.  

And while Valverde was happy to see the youngster breaking out with the Spanish giants, he still hopes to see more from the promising French star.  

“We have always said what a talented player he is. We wanted to see that talent on the pitch. And this year we’re getting to see a lot of what he has to offer, but I am still hoping that there’s even more.” 

Barcelona return to the pitch Sunday to take on seventh placed Getafe as they look to open 2018 in style.

Barcelona, who are three points ahead of Atletico Madrid in LaLiga, return to action away to Getafe on Sunday.