Three Lions v one Lionel Messi: England’s missing date with greatness

With hectic schedules and modern great nearing the end of his international career, Argentina facing Gareth Southgate’s side is looking an increasingly unlikely fixture

Henry Winter
The Times

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Narrated by Henry Winter

England have never faced Lionel Messi. In their long, celebrated history they have played against greats such as Pelé (at Maracana 1959, 1964, 1969 and in Guadalajara 1970), the inimitable Diego Maradona (Wembley 1980 and, painfully, the Azteca 1986) and the remarkable Cristiano Ronaldo (Faro 2004, Stadium of Light Lisbon 2004 and, very painfully, Gelsenkirchen 2006). England have been up against Franz Beckenbauer seven times. But not once against Messi.

It was either Brazil or Messi’s Argentina as England’s Wembley opponents for the first date in the next window, March 23, 2024. Argentina’s fee is high, reportedly £3 million to £4 million, especially as world champions, and with Messi leading them, but the FA did enter discussions. But it will be Endrick, Gabriel Martinelli and