Atletico Madrid full-back Filipe Luis championed Lionel Messi as he gets set to go head-to-head with the Barcelona star on Saturday, declaring his belief that the Argentina superstar could take a “mediocre team” to LaLiga title success.
Messi has been in irresistible form so far this season for Barca, scoring 11 league goals in seven matches as the Catalan giants have taken control at the top of the table.
The 30-year-old provided another timely reminder of his immense ability during the international break, netting a hat-trick as Argentina crucially beat Ecuador 3-1 to avoid an embarrassing failure to qualify for the World Cup.
And Filipe Luis accepts he will likely have to play the “butcher” role again to stop Messi when Barca visit the Wanda Metropolitano on Saturday, as there is no other way to halt the forward.
He told El Mundo: “Messi is so good that he could win the league with only a mediocre team, which is not the case [with Barca].
“Barca have the ability to create constant internal problems. They seem to like that, but Messi is so good, so good. He sustains them no matter what happens around him.
“When Messi or Cristiano [Ronaldo] get 50 goals, people think that the defences are bad, but when they are not there, there are no other goals and we are the same defences. It is very difficult for all of us and very easy for them. It’s another level.
“I have played more than 30 games against him and I play the part of the butcher, because, and I’m being totally sincere, it is impossible to stop Messi one-on-one without fouling him.
“If Messi faces me with the ball and I am alone, without fail I will grab him or something. I have to play with other weapons.
“I have to make things uncomfortable for him because if he feels comfortable, you’re dead.”
Filipe Luis is used to coming into contact with the world’s best players and is a team-mate of Neymar at international level with Brazil.
Neymar stole the headlines in the close-season as he secured a world-record €222million move from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain, a figure that Filipe Luis believes is understandable.
“Neymar is worth that money,” he added. “It is his price. He is the third, equal-second, best in the world.
“Whenever he is told that something is impossible, he goes and achieves it. He loves challenges.
“He has broken the market and that should add enormous pressure, but he does not feel it. He’s a guy who lives in his world and enjoys these things a lot.
“I know that amount sounds crazy, but it is good that money is paid for players because it shows that a player can generate that value. Football generates more money than people believe.”