Lionel Messi: What's it like to face the Barcelona legend?

Lionel Messi takes on Toby Alderweireld during his Barcelona days

Former Tottenham centre-back Toby Alderweireld has named Lionel Messi as the toughest opponent he has ever faced.

Alderweireld, who currently represents Belgian First Division A side Royal Antwerp, made his admission in a recent podcast interview, which has been summarised in a viral Twitter thread by user @lapulgafreak.

During their respective careers, Alderweireld and Messi have crossed paths at both club and international level – with the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner enjoying bragging rights more often than not.

It was during a 2018 Champions League group stage match, though, that Alderweireld admitted he couldn’t get anywhere near Messi.

What makes Messi so tough to play against?

“I usually read the play on the field and often I succeed. But Messi…ooh. One night at Wembley when we lost 4-2 against Barcelona (with Tottenham) he was unprecedented…really unprecedented.

Alderweireld tweet on Messi
Alderweireld tweet on Messi

“You can’t get a grip on him. Everything he does, he does it just that little bit faster than you. He does this, then he does that, it goes so fast. I really had a feeling I couldn’t do anything against him.

READ MORE: Lionel Messi will reportedly re-join Barcelona in 2023

Alderweireld on how his plan to try and deal with Messi backfired

“You just hope time goes as fast as possible. (Laughs) We got back into the game which was positive and negative. We started attacking more but I had to face him even more one-on-one because there was more space.

“That’s the thing, you don’t know what he’s going to do. That’s the special thing, you can’t train for that.

“You try to get in duels with him. He looks like a slender guy so you try to get physical. But he’s not slender at all, if you look at his thighs you think…wow. He is so fast. The quality, the ball control, It’s not normal.

Lionel Messi: Can you get 20/20 on this quiz about his Barcelona career?

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At what age did Messi join Barcelona?

Alderweireld weighs in on the Messi v Ronaldo debate

“Yeah, I played against Ronaldo many times. Of course, his numbers don’t lie, but Messi was the best, because he is simply elusive. You can’t get hold of him.”

Video: Alderweireld names Messi as his toughest ever opponent

Even at 35 years of age, Messi is still delivering the goods in top-flight European football. He’s started the 2022/23 campaign in fine style for Paris Saint-Germain, but reports suggest he could be in line for a return to his beloved Barcelona next summer.

Time will tell whether Messi is to grace the turf at Camp Nou again as a player. However, whichever team he is playing for, the Argentine superstar remains a formidable opponent for defences across the globe.

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