Inter Miami forward Lionel Messi has already named the toughest opponent he has faced during his incredible career and his answer may surprise many.
The 36-year-old has often been the cause of defenders’ nightmares in years gone by.
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Messi has spent the most of his career with Barcelona, where he won ten La Liga titles, seven Copa del Rey titles and UEFA Champions League four times.
He then signed for Paris Saint-Germain before switching to Inter Miami over the summer, where he has helped turn his club’s fortunes around.
The Argentine star only made his debut on July 21, announcing himself with a match-winning free-kick in typical fashion.
He has scored 11 goals in 11 games, helping Inter Miami’s lift their first-ever trophy, the Leagues Cup. While the former Barca star also guided them to the final of the US Open Cup and dragged them back into contention for the MLS play-offs.
But it was at Barcelona that Messi came up against his toughest opponent in the shape of Spanish right-back Pablo Maffeo, who was playing for Girona at the time.
Speaking back in 2020, Messi admitted (quotes according to FourFourTwo): “Pablo Maffeo of Girona was the toughest. I’ve never been one who complains, but that [match] was intense!”
Messi was referencing Barcelona’s 3-0 victory over the La Liga team back in 2017, when Maffeo, who was on loan at Girona from Man City, man-marked him the entire game.
Despite being 20 years of age, Maffeo refused to let the occasion get the better of him and made sure Messi didn’t score.
Speaking after the match, the defender, who was let go by Man City and now plays for Mallorca, explained (quotes via GiveMeSport): “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.
“He asked me how old I was, if I had been assigned by Manchester City and what it was like there. He said the marking was not pleasant.
“Messi and I were together the whole match. He has asked me a couple of things. He is a good person.”