Pitbull will keep snapping at Flea's heels

Chile's defender Gary Medel giving a press conference at the National Stadium in Santiago.
Chile's defender Gary Medel giving a press conference at the National Stadium in Santiago. PHOTO: AFP

SANTIAGO • The Copa America final could turn upon a showdown between Lionel Messi's brilliance and the combative Gary Medel, whose "Pitbull" nickname perfectly sums up his style.

The well-travelled Chilean defensive midfielder will have the near-impossible job of controlling Messi "The Flea".

The brilliant Messi danced around Paraguay's defenders as Argentina fired six goals past them in the semi-final this week.

Medel provoked jitters for his side when he scored an own goal that put Peru level before Chile secured a 2-1 win to reach the final.

However, Medel, 27, embodies the never-say-die spirit of the Chilean team.

Chile midfielder Gary Medel has the thankless task of trying to keep Argentina superstar Lionel Messi quiet. PHOTO:

The Inter Milan player always seems ready for a rumble and admits that as a child he was always in trouble for fighting.

"I am a nice kind of crazy," he said in an interview while at Cardiff City for the 2013-14 English Premier League season.

Medel's kind of crazy is getting sent off for slapping Atletico Madrid rival Diego Costa (now at Chelsea) while playing at Sevilla.

Medel was also sent off in the semi-final of the Under-20 World Cup in Canada in 2007, which was followed by a showdown between Chilean players and police in the carpark. The Canadian media said that Medel was shot in the back with a taser.

He will not say what happened. But his passing is pinpoint and his rugged defending could be enough to unnerve Messi, whom he impressively controlled in some La Liga battles.

A parallel confrontation will come between Chile's Arturo Vidal, also no stranger to trouble, and Javier Mascherano, Argentina's midfield enforcer.

Vidal forms the steel of the Chilean midfield while Mascherano, "the Little Boss", is the trusted old hand who backs up Messi for club and country and can weather any storm.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 04, 2015, with the headline 'Pitbull will keep snapping at Flea's heels'. Print Edition | Subscribe