Sporting CP player Rodrigo Battaglia recalled the time he was tasked with man-marking Lionel Messi.
Sporting and Barcelona were paired in the same Champions League group back in the 2017/18 season and when the Portuguese outfit travelled to the Nou Camp, Battaglia was set for a big role.
Manager Jorge Jesus selected him for the all-important role of reducing Messi’s influence on the game and was initially “stunned” and “a little ashamed”.
Speaking on Instagram live, he said: “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.
“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.”
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The Argentine did as his manager asked and Sporting were a tad unlucky – losing 1-0 courtesy of a Sebastian Coates own goal. Doing a job on Messi ended up being a positive thing for Battaglia, who was then the go-to-guy for man-marking job.
“Thank God everything came out well. 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.”
“He [Lionel Messi] was on inspired [form that] night. Not only him as the Argentine team [as a whole] made a great game,” Marquinhos said following the 2-0 victory.
“On the day of the game, I ended up taking [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 when it started to tighten, with the effort it got worse [into] game.”