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Say hello to Pablo Maffeo - the boy who stopped Lionel Messi

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Feature
4.02K   //    25 Sep 2017, 16:26 IST

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Lionel Messi was rendered helpless by Maffeo when Barcelona took on Girona

Newly-promoted La Liga club, Girona, are a hotbed of Manchester City's young talent and one of them, Pablo Maffeo, made a name for himself on Saturday night against a slightly bigger Catalan outfit.

Girona would not have been expecting them, or one of their players, to be the headline when they hosted La Liga leaders and 100% record-boasting Barcelona, but that is how it turned out after Maffeo produced a fantastic display in an unorthodox position.

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Pablo Maffeo was deployed in an unusual position, but performed brilliantly

Maffeo, who is usually a right-back, was deployed in the holding role in the 3-0 defeat at Estadi Montilivi with one task and one task only: mark the best player on the planet out of the game. Simple.

He certainly made it look it, anyway, as Lionel Messi rarely got a sniff at Gorka Iraizoz's goal, and failed to get on the scoresheet which meant that, for now at least, he has failed to break Raul's record of scoring against the most La Liga sides. Girona would have been the 36th.

Also read: Are you on loan from Man City? Messi quizzes Girona's Maffeo

Maffeo stuck to Messi like glue for his 78 minutes on the pitch and, at times, he came so close to Messi, that it seemed like he was wearing the shirt of the Argentine. However, Maffeo went home with someone else's shirt following the final whistle.

"A friend of mine wanted Ter Stegen's shirt so I asked the goalkeeper,"

Maffeo told Marca.

"Messi is the best footballer in the world, but friends come first."
"I had to mark him and I had to be close to him and not watch the ball."
"It is difficult, not just from a football perspective, but also psychologically. I appreciate the trust the coach placed in me."

No doubt Pep Guardiola will get, or has already been sent, the DVD of Maffeo's display but it was the current Barcelona manager, Ernesto Valverde, that was initially impressed with the 20-year-old loanee.

"The man-marking was clear and we had to find the place where to put Messi to move that player (Maffeo) and to get the most out of the situation."
"You have to take advantage of the situation. We tried to get the better of them by playing in the space and taking advantage of Leo's movement,"

Valverde said.

Manchester City share the same problem most other so-called super clubs, certainly, the English ones, do: promoting their youth and how to do it.

The Elite Development Squad that is part of the club's futuristic Etihad Campus is developing a number of top prospects, even if most of them seem to be at their collection of feeder clubs around the world.

Girona have five young Cityzens on loan, NAC Breda rent six while the even more well-known halfway house, Melbourne City have two.

If you could point to anyone that could potentially play regularly for City's first team in the future, Maffeo might be that man, as he has twice made starts - against Steaua Bucharest in a UEFA Champions League play-off, and against Manchester United in the EFL Cup.

Manchester United v Manchester City - EFL Cup Fourth Round
Pablo Maffeo started for City against rivals United in the EFL Cup last season

However, when City spent £71.5 million on right-backs alone this summer, it suggested that even the brightest may be sold onto pastures new: a problem Chelsea find themselves deeply entrenched in, if indeed, it should even be considered a problem.

Maffeo may end up being a big regret if they ignore him.


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