Midfielder Felipe Melo has revealed how Brazil used to rotate their tactical fouling on Lionel Messi when facing Argentina: “we rotated and kicked him once each.”
The two players came head to head on multiple occasions in South America’s biggest national rivalry across World Cup qualifying and Copa America tournaments.
Melo, currently playing with Brazilian club Palmeiras, has also played for Real Mallorca, Racing Santander and Almería in Spain, while he represented two Italian giants – Juventus and Inter – in a long European career.
However, the experienced central midfielder – who gained a reputation for a rough style of play and carried a questionable disciplinary record – has now opened up on his admiration of the Barcelona star.
The 36-year-old believes Messi is the greatest player to ever play football and puts him ahead of greats from his own nation, such as Pele and Zico.
“He is such a unique player, on international duty we came up with a plan for him,” Melo explained to Clarin, as cited by Marca.
“With Brazil we rotated and kicked him once each, we were not trying to kick him to break him but as tactical fouling, to disturb his rhythm.
“He is the best in history, I cannot say anything about Pele as I did not see him play, and many people in Brazil say that Zico was better than anyone.
“But it is different for me as I saw Messi play and it is incredible – more than Cristiano Ronaldo, who can score five goals for you but Messi can create them too, so he is more complete.”
Messi is Argentina’s all-time leading scorer with 70 goals in 138 international caps, but he has never landed a title with his nation.