McTominay: ‘Messi blamed me for Smalling elbowing him’

Scott McTominay has explained why Lionel Messi almost rejected his request for his shirt after 2019’s Champions League quarter-final tie at the Nou Camp.

McTominay, who played the full 90 minutes in central midfield, witnessed Messi adorn his dazzling performance with two goals as Barcelona won 3-0 on the night and 4-0 on aggregate.

Mesmerised, the Scotland international asked goalkeeper Sergio Romero if he could try and convince his countryman to hand over his shirt. But Messi, who received a bloody nose during the game via Chris Smalling’s elbow, was reluctant at first, mistakenly identifying McTominay as the culprit.

McTominay, first asked by ESPN who he thinks the best player in the world is, said: “Messi, 100 per cent. Yeah, Messi, Messi. I got his shirt, you know?

“So, whenever we played against him for Barcelona [in 2019], Chris Smalling elbowed him and he’s got blood coming out of his nose. And he thought it was me.

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“Because I said to Sergio Romero: ‘Please can you ask Messi to get his shirt?’.

“Sergio comes back in and said: ‘Oh, he thinks you were the one who elbowed him on the halfway line’. I said: ‘No, no, no, no – tell him it wasn’t me, so make sure I get that shirt because that’s going in my bedroom’. So he knows it wasn’t me now.

“Sorry Chrissy, but he was the one who roughed him up a bit.”

Barcelona, who had won 1-0 in the first leg courtesy of a Luke Shaw own goal, would go on to face Liverpool in the semi-finals. They ran out comfortable 3-0 winners at the Nou Camp but were given a rude awakening at Anfield as Liverpool roared back in the second leg to win 4-0 and progress into the final at La Blaugrana’s expense.

Head coach Ernesto Valverde, sacked in January last year, would not contest another Champions League knockout tie with the club.

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