Defender Messi named his TOUGEST opponent set for Argentina call-up

LaLiga defender – who Lionel Messi named as his TOUGHEST opponent – is set to be handed first Argentina call-up by Lionel Scaloni after switching international allegiances from Spain

  • The pair met in 2017 when Messi was playing for Barcelona against Girona 
  • Player has never had an international cap at senior level despite Spain youth ties 
  • Liverpool’s Luis Diaz is extraordinary – Listen here to It’s All Kicking Off 

Argentina head coach Lionel Scaloni is set to call up a player once described by Lionel Messi as the ‘toughest’ rival he ever faced, Mallorca defender Pablo Maffeo. 

The Spanish-born right back was born in Barcelona, but is of Italian and Argentine descent, and yet to make a senior team appearance for Spain. 

The 26-year-old last featured internationally for Spain’s under-21 where he made five appearances between 2017 and 2018, but the call-up signals a switch of allegiances for the player following a strong run of LaLiga performances for the Balearic club. 

Scaloni is thought to have monitored the former Manchester City prospect for some time in a bid to strengthen his squad options for upcoming World Cup qualifiers. 

Argentina are due to face off with Uruguay and Brazil during November’s international break as they look to shore up their hold at the top of their South American qualifying group. 

Lionel Messi called facing off with Pablo Maffeo one of his most intense evenings of his career

The 26-year-old Mallorca defender is on the verge of winning his first senior international cap

Maffeo (left) has Argentine and Italian heritage, but previously featured for Spain’s youth team

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A move to the Albiceleste means a reunion for Maffeo with the eight-time Ballon d’Or winner, who had only the highest praise for the defender in 2020. 

‘Pablo Maffeo of Girona was the toughest (defender I’ve faced). I’ve never been one who complains, but that (match) was intense!’ 

The fixture in question took place in 2017, when the then-Girona defender was tasked with man-marking the Inter Miami star at the end of his spell with Barcelona. 

At only 20 years old, Maffeo rose to the occasion and kept Messi almost entirely under wraps – despite the Blaugrana walking away with the tie 3-0. 

At the time, Maffeo explained: ‘Messi told me: “I’ve got you here for the whole day” and I said: “You’re the best in the world, I’m not going to leave you”.

‘He asked me how old I was, if I had been assigned by Manchester City (where Maffeo was on loan from) and what it was like there. He said the marking was not pleasant.

‘Messi and I were together the whole match. He has asked me a couple of things. He is a good person.’

After leaving Man City in 2018 without making a single senior appearance in the Premier League, Maffeo had spells at Stuttgart, Heuesca, and Mallorca before making his loan permanent at the LaLiga side in 2022. 

During his spell at Manchester City, Maffeo featured in just three senior ties for the club

After leaving Man City in 2018, Maffeo endured a number of loan spells during his time at Bundesliga side Stuttgart

Since signing his deal, Maffeo has made 42 appearances and scored twice during his travails. 

The reward of a potential first senior international cap is one that has been much desired by the player. 

‘He’s super, super excited,’ His agent Jorge Capilla told D Sports Radio. ‘It’s an opportunity for him. In the end, it is his mother’s country, and he has very great roots and ties (to the country), and above all, Argentina is the current world champion. 

‘I think it is an opportunity for everyone, it is a good moment for him, in terms of sports, and it comes at a very good age (for him).’     


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