Joško Gvardiol on playing against Lionel Messi: “It was a nice experience.”

Croatia and RB Leipzig defender Joško Gvardiol (20) described the experience of playing against Lionel Messi, who scored the opening goal in Argentina’s 3-0 win to book a place in the World Cup final.

“It was a nice experience even though I played against him at club level,” said Gvardiol. “He’s a completely different type of player at club level and in the national team.

“I’m glad that I played against him even though we lost but one day I’ll tell my children that I defended against Messi, the best player who’s ever played, for 90 minutes.”

Gvardiol is widely regarded as one of Europe’s most talented defenders and has shone for RB Leipzig this season. The 20-year-old, who can also operate at left-back, has played every minute for Croatia at the World Cup.

His performances in the last 18 months has attracted interest from Europe’s biggest clubs. With Champions League experience at such a young age, Gvardiol was wanted by Thomas Tuchel at Chelsea.

Gvardiol has a contract with RB Leipzig until 2027 and with no reported release clause, the Saxony club can demand a significant fee for their promising defender, but a move in 2023 may not yet happen. Agent Marjan Sisic discussed his clients future last week: “Regarding a possible transfer in 2023, we are not in a hurry and I can make clear that there are no pre-arrangements with any clubs.”

GGFN | Daniel Pinder

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