Barcelona forward Lionel Messi says he has become less selfish and has evolved into more of a team player.
Messi, 30, brought up 100 Champions League goals with a brace against Chelsea on Wednesday and is La Liga’s top scorer with 24 goals.
However, he’s also the top creator in Spain’s top flight with 12 assists, and he spoke last week about he’s now playing a deeper role for Barca.
It’s a marked change from the player who broke onto the scene over a decade ago as a speedy winger that was always willing to take players on.
“Before, I used to try to steal the ball and make something happen on my own — or at least try to do something on my own,” he told America TV.
“Now, I try to make the team play more. I pass the ball more and I try not to be so selfish, if you will. I try to move the team from one position to another. I still run as much as ever, just in a different way.”
Messi’s effectively the second forward in a 4-4-2 formation under Ernesto Valverde but he increasingly finds himself in a deeper position, often dropping into his own half to get on the ball in central positions and dictate play.
Former coach Luis Enrique said in 2016 that Messi would be the best player in the world in whatever position he decided to play.
He may be required to play a more advanced role on Sunday against Athletic Bilbao, though, with Luis Suarez suspended after accumulating five yellow cards.
Valverde may bring Paco Alcacer into the side, although the former Valencia frontman has not featured since the goalless draw with Getafe on Feb. 11 and has not scored since December.
Another option is to use Messi further forward and pair him with Ousmane Dembele, who scored his first Barca goal against Chelsea on Wednesday.