TEMPER EXPECTATIONS GARY NEVILLE slammed Lionel Messi as he compared the superstar to ex-Manchester United strop Cristiano Ronaldo.
The Argentine magician, 35, had the last laugh though as he rescued his country with a magical strike to beat Mexico 2-0 and remain in the World Cup.
Lionel Messi scored a second-half goal after Neville had slammed him during the break
The ITV pundit had compared him to former Man Utd star Cristiano Ronaldo
Messi’s long-range drive in the second half revived Argentina’s Qatar hopes following their shock loss to Saudi Arabia.
But the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner, and his team-mates, had been lacklustre again in the first 45 minutes.
And, at the break, former Prem star and now pundit Neville told ITV viewers that watching Messi reminded him of Ronaldo’s recent demise at United.
The 47-year-old said: “Players aren’t fearful of Lionel Messi anymore. They are taking the ball off him easily.
“You can’t speak enough about how great this guy is.
“But honestly the devastation. I’ve seen at Old Trafford for 18 months, when a player of such stature has that body language, the impact it has on the players is devastating.
“He’s walking around the pitch, he’s shrugging his shoulders at them.”
Neville did change his tune at full-time after Messi went some way to proving him wrong.
The Argentina captain drilled home his breakthrough goal from 25 yards on 64 minutes
There seemed little danger when on 64 minutes Angel Di Maria laid the ball inside to Messi, who for once had a little room to breathe out of the clutches of Mexico’s suffocating defence.
His first touch with that wand of a left foot teed up the ball. His second sent it arrowing across keeper Guillermo Ochoa and into the corner.
The blue-and-white hordes behind the goal exploded in joy, releasing the tension that had been growing since that opening defeat against the Saudis.
And Neville ate some humble pie after the game – admitting Messi is still the same player “in moments”.
He added: “It’s a finish we have seen so many times from him, the thing that separates these great players is the precision in their finish.
“Messi to be fair, it’s moments now, he gets that space, and stands still. The power, the accuracy is wonderful.”