Lionel Messi Barcelona 2019-20

Messi picks surprise defender as his toughest man-marker

Lionel Messi claims he's not bothered by the man-marking he is regularly subjected to while playing for Barcelona and has picked Girona's Pablo Maffeo as one of his toughest opponents.

The 32-year-old's skills and ability to decide a match have led to some opposition managers opting to man-mark the Argentine, assigning a player the job of following Messi around the pitch.

That often hasn't stopped the Barcelona legend from making a big impact in games and Messi says that he isn't bothered if that's a tactic that is adopted by his rivals.

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"There are ugly games and strange games. Games in which you always have a man close to you. It doesn’t happen to me much. But it doesn’t bother me either. Those are strange, different games," Messi told La Liga on DAZN.

"Depending on how the game is going, we [Messi and his man-marker] will say something to each other."

Though he's often locked horns with Real Madrid centre-back Sergio Ramos, while Casemiro has also been tasked with dealing with the Barca captain in the past, Messi singled out Spanish right-back Maffeo as a difficult opponent.

Messi said when asked about the toughest man-marker he has faced: "I don’t remember, truly. The one from Girona [Maffeo], maybe. That was exaggerated."

Maffeo, 22, is now into his third loan stint with Girona but has previously been on the books of Manchester City and is currently owned by Stuttgart. 

Aside from aggressive man-marking, Messi is also no stranger to being fouled but isn't too concerned about it as long as his opponent has the intention of winning the ball.

He added: "I never complained about it. I think that contact and kicks are part of football. It does bother me when the tackles have bad intentions. If that isn’t the case, then it’s part of the game and I don’t take it badly."

While the Barcelona star looks to continue to shine for the Catalans on the pitch, the club have had a tough week off it with head coach Ernesto Valverde sacked on Monday and Quique Setien brought in as his replacement

Barca had made a poor start to 2020, drawing with Espanyol in the league before losing to Atletico Madrid in the Supercopa de Espana semi-final.

Setien's first game in charge will see the Catalans host Granada on Sunday with Barcelona currently top of La Liga on goal difference.