Lionel Messi named Argentina teammate and Tottenham’s Cristian Romero as the best defender in the world after their 1-0 victory over Ecuador.
Messi’s free-kick proved to be the difference in the World Cup champions’ first qualifier for the 2026 tournament in the United States, Canada and Mexico as they won 1-0 at Estadio Mas Monumental.
Romero lined up alongside Messi throughout their success in Qatar late last year and has established himself as one of the best defenders in the Premier League since joining Spurs in 2021. He has also scored twice in the current campaign during his side’s fast start under new manager Ange Postecoglou.
Messi was full of praise for his compatriot after the Ecuador win, saying: “For me, [Cristian Romero] is the best defender in the world right now. Amazing performance tonight, man of the match.”
Romero did come in for criticism towards the end of the 2022/23 season as Tottenham finished horribly under Antonio Conte, Cristian Stellini and Ryan Mason.
He has responded to his teammate’s praise, admitting he will remember it forever.
Romero said: “These are things that will remain in my memory for a lifetime. I didn’t expect it.
“You always try to take advantage of the opportunity that the coach gives, the opportunity that my teammates gave me on the first day, who received me with affection.
“They welcomed me. They trust me a lot and I try to give back the trust to all of them. I am very happy and very grateful to all of them.”
Reports in Argentina had suggested Romero picked up a minor injury to his right leg in the victory over Ecuador but manager Lionel Scaloni has since revealed he is “fit to play” in their next fixture against Bolivia on Tuesday.