Barcelona and Sporting Lisbon were paired in Group D of the 2017/18 UEFA Champions League and Argentine midfielder Rodrigo Battaglia has revealed that he was tasked with marking Lionel Messi in the clash with the Catalans.
The six-time Ballon d'Or winner is widely regarded as the greatest player in the history of the game, and any pre-match tactical discussion before playing Barcelona involves determining how to stop Lionel Messi.
More often than not, the plot fails, as Messi's greatness sees him operate on a level far above mundane measures like man-marking or attempting to keep him out of games.
However, Battaglia was more successful than most, although he revealed that man-marking his compatriot took a considerable toll on his mind and body.
Sporting manager Jorge Jesus tasked the former Braga man with the thankless task of keeping Lionel Messi quiet and he revealed that he was initially 'stunned' and 'a little ashamed'.
Battaglia on the pressure of man-marking Lionel Messi
The task of marking Lionel Messi is not one to be taken lightly and Rodrigo Battaglia took to his Instagram Live to reveal what it felt like:
"In the first training session of that week, Jorge told me, 'Batta, you are going to defend the short guy.' I was stunned. I asked him, 'Over the whole pitch, sir?' and he said, 'Yes, in general.' Honestly, I felt a little ashamed," Battaglia revealed.
"I had to follow the best player in the world everywhere. It was the first time in my life that happened. The boss even sent me some videos of him. I told him I had already seen all of them but he insisted. I watched the videos next to him," Battaglia added.
The current Alaves star thankfully came out unscathed, with his side losing 1-0 due to an unfortunate Sebastian Coates own goal. However, after his exceptional performance, Battaglia became the default go-to guy for man-marking duties at his club.
"Thank God everything turned out okay. We lost 1-0 with an own goal but we played great. In the matches after Barcelona, back in the league, I was always told to man-mark one of the opponents just like I had against Barcelona," said Battaglia.
Battaglia had a better outing than Marquinhos, who revealed that marking Lionel Messi in a game was made more difficult by the fact that he was under the weather when Brazil clashed with Argentina.
"He [Lionel Messi] was in inspired [form that] night. Not only him, the Argentine team [as a whole] had a great game," Marquinhos said following the 2-0 victory.
"On the day of the game, I ended up suffering from a virus and I spent the day at the hotel. It was very complicated. I had diarrhea and vomiting, I still managed to play a little, but it got worse [into] the game."
After a protracted summer of discontent, Lionel Messi is currently with Argentina for World Cup qualifiers against Ecuador and Bolivia before returning to help Barcelona in their quest win silverware this season.Published 07 Oct 2020, 17:29 IST