Blues defender reveals how much pleasure he took in his performance against Barcelona's Argentine wizard, but remains focused on trying to dominate Arsenal's Dutchman on Saturday
The ex-Bolton star was tasked to suffocate Lionel Messi's penetrative attacks on Wednesday night as his side beat Barcelona 1-0 in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final.
And now he faces a similarly daunting challenge as he comes up against Arsenal's Robin van Persie on Saturday as Chelsea look to get back into the running for fourth place in a crucial Premier League fixture.
"He's a different sort of challenge to Messi," Cahill said of the Dutchman to The Daily Mirror.
| PLAYER RATING VS BARCELONA
|7.5||Struggled to cope with the mesmerising and relentless Barcelona attacks in the first half but made two excellent blocks early in the second, when the crowd responded by chanting his name. His head will still be spinning by the time the return leg kicks off but he can hold it high.|
"He’s very dangerous and is going to be a handful. His left foot is amazing and the goals he’s scored have been from everywhere – headers, shots, volleys, all types.
"You can’t really prepare for facing Messi - I just happened to be up against him because he tended to play more down my side," the centre-back added of Wednesday's win.
"There were numerous times when he’s walking past you as if he’s not bothered and you know it’s almost a disguise, because in the next phase of play he’s going to burst in behind. He darts in at you and you can’t seem to get the ball off him. It just seems to stick to him, it bounces into his path.
“Once there were four or five players around him, but we only just got a last-ditch tackle in."
The Sheffield-born defender added: "We had to soak up a lot of pressure and possession, but the main thing was the concentration levels. I was more mentally tired than physically drained when I got home afterwards.
"It was pleasing that defensively as a team we managed to tame them a bit. It was similar to the Spain game, where England had to soak up a lot of pressure and possession [and won 1-0]."
Cahill could easily have been on the other side of Saturday's game had Arsenal's summer interest in him been followed up before he left Bolton for Stamford Bridge in January.
"When England were training at Arsenal’s training ground, I was aware of Arsene Wenger watching, but I think it was more a case of him just speaking to the manager. He didn’t tend to stay around a long time," he added of the transfer saga.
"It was just a situation where the clubs couldn’t agree a fee. It wasn’t anything I could get involved with. I’ve no idea if it was because [Arsenal] didn’t want to push the boat out a bit more."
However, Cahill has no regrets about moving to Chelsea, and admits that he is living his dream by playing in games against the likes of Messi.
"It was nice to hear the fans singing my name the other night. It feels like you’re sort of accepted. That was a proud moment on a good night. I hope it shows I’m doing something right," he enthused.
"These are the kind of games – against Barcelona and now going to the FA Cup final – that I joined Chelsea to be a part of."