The antagonist behind Andy Gray’s infamous line does not believe the six-time Ballon d’Or winner would have problems adapting in England
Tony Pulis believes that Lionel Messi would have no problems coping on a wet Tuesday at Stoke, with the former Potters manager responding to rumours that the Barcelona star could switch to Manchester City this summer.
Messi has handed in a transfer request at Camp Nou and is set for a wrangle with the Catalan club as he believes that he could depart immediately for free while Barca are insistent he still has a year to run on his contract.
The six-time Ballon d’Or winner has been criticised in the past for not having played outside of Spain, with former Sky Sports commentator Andy Gray having suggested that Barcelona would have a hard time facing Stoke.
The analyst said: “I don’t know if Barcelona have ever gone to a place like the Britannia Stadium and suffered the kind of onslaught from Tony Pulis’ team of long throws and free-kicks or been up to a place like Blackburn and been beaten up by their long ball into the box.”
That metamorphosed into the infamous ‘wet and windy Tuesday at Stoke’ claims that Messi is still faced with in the UK.
Pulis, though, believes the Argentine would handle himself just fine.
Writing for The Times, he said: “People are now asking how Lionel Messi might get on if he had to play at Stoke on a wet, windy Tuesday night. Or some of the slightly less glamorous Premier League grounds if he does sign for Manchester City.
“I think he would be amazing. He is blessed with amazing skill, of course. I always remember sitting with my son, Anthony, at Arsenal one night and watching Barcelona during the warm-up. Messi launched this ball miles into the air and then killed it dead with his foot when it came back down. Anthony and I just looked at each other. Normal human beings aren’t capable of doing that.
“But people forget just how robust Messi is. He is tough, strong, he tracks back for his team when necessary, and no matter what the situation he will create opportunities either for himself or his team-mates.”
The Welshman also considered how he might be stopped – and he believes a team approach would be necessary.
“Quite how rival managers in the Premier League would deal with him is up to them,” he said. “I have never made a special case for certain players, even when coming up against individuals of the quality of someone like Cristiano Ronaldo.
“There is no point going man-to-man with a player of Messi’s ability. He is so clever he would drag your player all over the pitch and still find a way to destroy you, probably exploiting the hole you’ve left by assigning someone to that role.
“The more sensible approach is to defend tighter and narrower, and try to play with discipline, because Messi will be in a team that poses a threat in plenty of other areas too. It’s no good focusing on Messi when City could also have Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Aguero on the pitch.”
Manchester City finished second in the Premier League last term and start the new season on September 21 away to Wolves.
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