Harry Winks has admitted he enjoyed playing against Lionel Messi despite the Barcelona talisman’s masterclass performance against Tottenham on Wednesday.
Messi scored twice in the second half as Barcelona ran out 4-2 winners at Wembley. The Argentinian also played a part in the visitors’ first half goals, scored by Philippe Coutinho and Ivan Rakitic.
Winks started as part of a midfield that struggled to contain Messi, but the 22-year-old did manage to perform an admirable tackle on his opponent during Spurs’ improved second half display.
After the game, Winks was asked about what it was like to face Messi at the top of his game.
“I did enjoy it,” Winks said (via the London Evening Standard). “To play against him was an honour. The result takes away a lot of the enjoyment from the game, but in years to come, when I look back and say I played against — in my opinion — the greatest player to ever play football, it will be a proud moment.
“It’s so difficult to reflect on that right now because we’ve lost and, ultimately, that’s the most important thing. I’m gutted.
“The only way I can really describe [facing him] is he’s just completed football. The man just knows where everybody is. His weight of pass is just exceptional. He’s just special. But everyone who has played against him has said the same thing for years
“For me, it was special to play against a player like that. I learnt a lot from it. I’ll watch the game back and I’ll dissect my game. There were times when I gave the ball away sloppily, which wasn’t good enough.
“Rubbing shoulders with players like [Ivan] Rakitic and [Sergio] Busquets is always a good lesson to learn from. I went into the game respecting them, but at the same time you’ve got to go out there to kill them.”
Winks has only recently returned from a long-term ankle injury and is beginning to look back to his best as he regains his fitness.
The midfielder has even earned a call-up to the senior England squad, a decision made by Gareth Southgate likely on the back of Winks’ display against Barcelona.
The Three Lions face Spain and Croatia during the international break and Winks will be hoping to feature prominently.