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Published: 19:18 | 17/10/17

Helping to assist Messi is a 'privilege', says Paulinho

Barcelona midfielder Paulinho has said that it’s a "privilege" to help assist Lionel Messi to be the best player in the world.

Paulinho moved to Barca from Guangzhou Evergrande last summer and has played largely a defensive midfield role as the Spanish side have gone unbeaten for ten matches across La Liga and the Champions League. In nine appearances Paulinho has netted twice and played a vital part in the Barca’s hugely impressive opening to the season.

"Playing alongside Messi is special for me," Paulinho said in a news conference on Tuesday. "He's a player I always wanted to play with. I have played against him with Brazil, but to play alongside him is a privilege.

"Messi's a player that has helped me a lot. He has helped me adapt [to the team] and the reception from all of my teammates has been incredible, perfect.

"My job here is to help [Messi] continue to be the best player in the world. When someone is playing alongside the best player in the world, you just have to do what you need to do to make him the best and ensure that the ball gets to him as quickly and as often as possible."

Barca manager Ernesto Valverde backed Paulinho’s assessment that Messi is number one in the world, and disregarded the idea that if Cristiano Ronaldo equals Messi’s five Ballon d’Or wins this year they will be equal.

"We all know who is the best player in the world," Valverde said. "This subject about giving the Ballon d'Or to one player or another doesn't worry me.

"You don't need a Ballon d'Or, a gold medal, a silver medal or a bronze medal to know that Messi's the best in the world."

The comments came at a press conference ahead of Barca’s Champions League clash against Olympiakos at the Camp Nou on Wednesday, a club at which Valverde won three Greek league titles.

"For me, it's an emotional game,"Valverde said. "Both games will be, here and there, but maybe the one there more because it's a stadium with a special kind of magic where I had a great time.

"The team and the players have changed a lot, but many people remain the same and it's exciting for me. It's a club that is used to winning and the affection I have received from them is reciprocated.

"What worries me most about [the game] is Olympiakos's need to win after starting with two losses. They will work hard in defence and they can surprise us on the counter. They have very quick players in attack."

Valverde also admitted he was pleased with Barca’s unbeaten start to the season, a start which many critics weren't expecting to be so impressive.

"We're happy with how things are going," added Valverde, who will have a full squad to choose from with the exception of injured duo Ousmane Dembele and Rafinha.

"The fundamental thing for me is the two games in which we've had the disadvantage of going behind in, against Getafe and Atletico. Coming back in those games has created a good feeling.

"This team has spirit, it fights. There will always be problems. It's easy when you're in front, but when you have to come from behind you have to know how to compete." 

You can follow all over Barcelona's progress in the Champions League on the eir Sport pack, including tomorrow's match against Olympiakos on the UEFA Champions League Goals Show on BT Sport 1.

Image: Getty/David Ramos.

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