“Madrid kill you in the counter-attack,” Messi said. -Photo by Reuters

MADRID: Barcelona superstar striker Leo Messi warned Monday of Real Madrid's rapid counter-attacking threat as the archrivals prepare for a Sunday showdown.

While praising Real Madrid's game, the 25-year-old Argentine refused, however, to comment on their coach Jose Mourinho, explaining that he had never spoken to him.

“Madrid kill you in the counter-attack,” Messi said in an interview with daily El Pais.

“They have very fast forwards and the connection between defence and attack takes five seconds and then it's a goal. They don't need to play well to score three goals. They have a lot of positions for their players who are very good.”

Messi said he was friends with two fellow Argentines on the Real Madrid squad, Gonzalo “El Pipita” Higuain and Angel di Maria.

“You don't see El Pipita and then he has two kicks and scores twice,” he added.

The triple Ballon d'Or winner declined to give his opinion of Mourinho, however.

“I can't say anything. I don't know him, I have never spoken to him,” Messi said. “I can only comment on what he has achieved, which is a lot, many titles. I know his players speak well of him but I don't know him.”

Barcelona, who lead the first division with eight points over sixth-placed Real Madrid, will face their rivals at the Camp Nou stadium on Sunday.

Messi said he could remember every win over Real Madrid.

“Beating Real Madrid is the best because of the significance, they are a very good team,” he said of a clash between Spain's footballing giants that transfixes the nation and is known as “El Clasico”.

The Barcelona forward, who is expecting to become a father this month, said winning titles for the team is more important than individual records such as scoring the most goals.

“I am more worried about being a good person than being the best footballer in the world. Moreover, in the end when it's all over what do you take with you? When I retire I want to be remembered as a good guy. I want to score goals but also to have friends among the people I play with.”

Messi lauded Barcelona's new coach Tito Vilanova, former deputy coach who was promoted when Pep Guardiola left at the end of last season.

Vilanova had hauled Messi off the subs' bench in the days when he coached the Barcelona youth team, he said.

“Tito was the first to push me to play because until then I was just a sub or I didn't even play and he was the one who more or less put me in the first team in that category,” he said.

Messi admitted that impending fatherhood had changed his outlook.

“You look at things differently. You no long think of yourself. You think of him, about him not having any problems of any kind. Yes, it changes things, it changes your concept of things.”

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