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Lionel Messi delivers Cristian Romero verdict as Tottenham star embarrassed in Saudi Arabia loss

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Last year, Lionel Messi labelled Tottenham star Cristian Romero as ‘extraordinary’ following Argentina’s Copa America glory. But, following the defender’s shaky display in his nation’s World Cup opener against Saudi Arabia, the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner’s admission has come back to bite him.

Argentina conceded two goals in seven minutes in what was a shock turnaround after the South American champions looked set to cruise to victory. Lionel Scaloni’s side had three goals ruled out due to offside in the first-half, with frontmen Messi and Lautaro Martinez leading the line to excellent effect.

But the Saudis launched out of the blocks and clambered ahead amid a defensive horror show put on by Romero and former Manchester City defender Nicolas Otamendi. Things improved after Manchester United centre-half Lisandro Martinez came on for Romero but by then the damage had been done.

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First, Saleh Alshehri got the better of Spurs defender Romero, then Salem Aldawsari curled in a brilliant second beyond the flailing Emi Martinez.

The quick-fire goals highlighted brought attention to Scaloni’s controversial decision to start Romero despite the numerous injury issues suffered at club level. It could be argued that the Argentine boss may have rushed the centre-half back into the side after having led the country to glory a year prior.

Speaking in the Netflix documentary Sean Eternos: Campeones de America, Messi said: “Cuti’s appearance was extraordinary for us, for the future of the team and for that moment.”

Maybe the PSG star’s admission is what led Scaloni to gamble on Romero’s fitness. In just October, the Argentine was considered a ‘big, big risk’ by Antonio Conte.

Speaking ahead of Spurs’ Champions League clash with Sporting CP, the Italian said: “We have taken a big, big risk for this decision [to rest Romero].

“Especially for Cuti, for Romero, because he was really tired and we risked him a lot. But you know for this type of game you have to take risks and the players can give us their availability to play.

“Now we have to try to manage very well because he played and was lucky to finish the game but he finished the game with great will and desire. For this reason it is right to say thanks to him and Pierre.

“I think Cuti needed to recover better but Pierre is okay, 100 per cent. Cuti is okay but we have another important game on Tuesday and for this reason we try to make the best decision for him.”

Argentina collectively – and Romero if he is deemed fit enough to play and is selected – will get the chance to make amends for their Saudi Srabia horror show when they face Mexico at the same stadium on Saturday in an intriguing clash.

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