Chelsea target Josko Gvardiol hits back at Lionel Messi embarrassment

Chelsea's next six Premier League fixtures

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World Cup star Josko Gvardiol has surprisingly admitted that he felt he kept Lionel Messi under wraps during Croatia’s defeat to Argentina earlier this week. His side were beaten 3-0 on Tuesday night, with Manchester City star Julian Alvarez scoring a brace either side of Messi’s penalty.

After a shaky start to their campaign in Qatar, being beaten by Saudi Arabia, Argentina have impressed under Lionel Scaloni and kept Messi’s World Cup dream alive. The Paris Saint-Germain star has been one of the most influential players in the competition with five goals and three assists in six starts.

Many feel that Messi lifting the World Cup on Sunday, when his side take on France in the final, would see him assert himself as the best player of all time, especially given how Cristiano Ronaldo hardly featured in the tournament for Portugal.

The versatile forward was instrumental in his side’s victory over Croatia, with his mazy run to set up Alvarez’s second goal widely regarded as one of the most mesmerising moments of the tournament so far. Though despite the former Barcelona star jinking his way past Gvardiol on his way towards goal, the defender felt that he kept the forward under control over the course of 90 minutes.

Asked about facing the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner, he said: “It was a nice experience even though I played against him in the club last season. He is a completely different type of player in the club and in the national team.

“I am glad that I played against him even though we lost. But today and tomorrow I will be able to tell the children that I guarded Messi for 90 minutes. I guess we will beat him next time.”

Gvardiol has caught the eye of numerous top European sides this season due to his strong performances for RB Leipzig and Croatia. Chelsea, Manchester City and Real Madrid are all believed to be interested, though there are no guarantees that he even leaves the Bundesliga outfit in 2023 – may that be in January or the summer.

Chelsea saw a bid rejected for the 20-year-old late in the summer, which prompted Leipzig to open talks with their top prospect and persuade him to pen a new lucrative deal with the club. However, they are expected to reignite their interest in January due to their ageing backline. Though whether other clubs spark a big-money bidding war remains to be seen, with no side willing to pass up on the chance to miss out on the defender.

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