Defending is one of the hardest jobs in football. The task is already very difficult, and it becomes almost impossible when defenders have to stop Lionel Messi. The Argentine winger can easily outshine his opponent using body feints or some other flashy skills.
Though it seems like Lionel Messi has no problem getting past anyone in the world, the 2022 Qatar World Cup winner just revealed one defender who gave him a hard time, and the name might surprise football fans.
Lionel Messi named the toughest opponent he played against
Lionel Messi has been a part of one of the most competitive leagues in the world. La Liga boasts some of the best defenders globally, and Leo faced almost all of them, from defenders like Pepe, Nacho Fernandez to the one and only Sergio Ramos. The eight-time Ballon d’Or winner also went against players like Virgil Van Dijk and Harry Maguire. However, when asked about his toughest opponent, he did not mention any of these names.
In an interview, Lionel Messi revealed that the hardest opponent he faced was Spanish defender Pablo Maffeo. “Pablo Maffeo of Girona was the toughest. I’ve never been one who complains, but that [match] was intense!” he said. The two met in a La Liga match in 2017, when Pablo used to play for Girona.
Maffeo was man marking Messi the whole game and even had a little chat with him. In an interview, he told the press about his interaction with the G.O.A.T., saying “Messi told me, ‘I’ve got you here for the whole day,’ and I said, ’You’re the best in the world; I’m not going to leave you.”.
Messi’s toughest opponent reportedly switching allegiance
Maffeo has been associated with the Spanish national soccer team throughout his career. He was a part of the country’s under-21 and under-17 squads. Unfortunately, the 26-year-old was not called up for the 2022 Qatar World Cup. The right-back may now make a switch and join Argentina’s national team.
Pablo was born in Barcelona, but his mother is from Argentina, giving him the choice to play for either of the country’s national teams. Argentina’s coach, Lionel Scaloni, has already talked with the player, and if all the formalities are completed, he may be seen playing for Argentina in the World Cup qualifiers in November.
It is surprising that, despite playing against some of the most famous defenders in the world, Lionel Messi picked Pablo Maffeo. Surely the player has immense talent if he has impressed the G.O.A.T.