On Friday Pablo Maffeo was just another one of Man City’s kids, waiting in the wings.
By Saturday night, he was the talk of European football.
The 20-year-old defender is on loan at Girona (the club effectively owned by Man City and Pep Guardiola’s brother) and he was tasked with the job of man-marking Lionel Messi as his adopted club played host to Barcelona the weekend just gone.
The Argentine No10 has been in rampant form at the start of this season and Girona manager Pablo Machin would have been very concerned when Messi barely broke sweat on his way to a four-goal haul against Eibar.
However, the ploy of instructing Maffeo follow Messi around the Montilivi closer than the great man’s shadow worked as well as could have been expected.
The Man City starlet successfully restricted Messi’s influence on the game in a manner not seen since his lacklustre showing against PSG in Paris last season.
Contrary to what some think however, stopping Messi does not necessarily equate to stopping Barcelona.
Ernesto Valverde’s troops won 3-0 thanks to two own goals and Luis Suarez’s second goal of the season.
After the final whistle, Messi took an interest in his denier, asking Maffeo if he was a City loanee and how old he was.
The normal procedure in such circumstances is for the two players to swap shirts with the man-marker keeping the legend’s shirt as a trophy.
However, Maffeo rejected the chance to trade with Messi and instead asked Marc-Andre ter Stegen for his shirt.
Apparently, one of the young Spaniard’s friends had asked him to get the Barca keeper’s shirt for him.
“A friend of mine wanted Ter Stegen’s shirt so I asked the goalkeeper,” Maffeo said.
“Messi is the best in the world, but friends come first.”