Barcelona: New manager Ernesto Valverde deserves credit for FC Barcelona's improved performance, Lionel Messi has said.

Under Valverde, who joined the club last summer, Barça have built a 11-point lead at the top of La Liga, reached the Champions League round of 16 and qualified for the semifinals of the Copa del Rey, Efe news report.

"Since the new coach's arrival, he was very clear from the beginning about what he expected from the squad and we adapted fast to his instructions, ...," Messi said at a promotional event.

"We became defensively stronger and in the attacking line we have high quality players," the Argentine superstar said.

Messi said that he was optimistic about Barcelona's season, noting that the club is still alive in all competitions.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner said that the squad was delighted with the arrival of Philippe Coutinho and Yerry Mina, who joined the club during the winter transfer window.

Asked about the possibility of winning another Ballon d'Or, he said: "Individual awards are not my aims. My aims are the team's ones and thank God we are on the right path."

IANS