Leeds United's Junior Firpo on training with Barcelona's Lionel Messi and Marcelo Bielsa's 'murderball'

Daily battles with Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi helped improve Leeds United's newest recruit Junior Firpo.

Wednesday, 7th July 2021, 2:38 pm
Barcelona star Lionel Messi training with Leeds United's newest defender Junior Firpo. Pic: Getty

The 24-year-old left-back spent two seasons with Barcelona before making the switch to West Yorkshire this week in search of first-team football.

United landed his services on Tuesday in a deal worth €15m plus add ons as head coach Marcelo Bielsa finally filled one of his problem positions at Elland Road.

Firpo found game time hard to come by with the La Liga giants, sitting behind renowned full-back Jordi Alba in the pecking order having moved from division rivals Real Betis in 2019.

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He did, though, face one of the greatest footballers to ever play the game each day in training during his time at the club.

Messi has helped the Catalan outfit to 10 La Liga titles, four Champions League trophies and seven Copa del Rey victories during a historic spell at Camp Nou.

The 34-year-old is also a record-holding six-time Ballon d'Or winner and has broken all sorts of goalscoring records in Spain.

There is very little that Messi is yet to achieve in the game - individually and as a club player - having cemented his place as an all-time great and United's latest recruit is hoping to draw on some of that experience with his new team.

"I think I improved my style of play," Firpo said during a Q&A with the club website of training with Messi at Barcelona on a regular basis.

"It's normal I don't play too much in the last two years but I think I have improved a lot. Now I want to show that here [at Leeds].

"I think Leo is one or two steps higher than the other big players, not just the normal players. Other players are incredible but I think he has eyes all around his head.

"He's really good. He is a shy person. He is normal, I promise you. He's different. He is the best."

Firpo has now linked up with his new team-mates for pre-season and is currently adjusting to life at Thorp Arch ahead of the upcoming campaign.

Training under Bielsa, though, is different to anywhere else and he will take part in his first murderball session next week behind closed doors.

"Normally in Barcelona it is more possession games," he said of what differences he expects.

"It's a lot of ball [work], it is good. All the players have the quality and possibility to have the ball [in Barcelona]. It is good in the Premier League too. I think football is changing. Before not many teams wanted to play but now I think they do.

"In the first days Marcelo wants me to train alone to introduce the work. The style of training here is different from Barcelona and other teams.

"I'm sure next week I will do it [murderball] and I will show it. It's a new experience. All the players in the Premier League are really fit and physicality is important."