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Former Barcelona defender Jean-Clair Todibo: “We weren’t allowed to touch Lionel Messi in training”

France centre-back Todibo has revealed he was given special instructions about with how to deal with Inter Miami and Argentina star Messi.

Update:
France centre-back Todibo has revealed he was given special instructions about with how to deal with Inter Miami and Argentina star Messi.
RODOLFO MOLINADIARIO AS

Things didn’t quite work out for Jean-Clair Todibo at Barcelona, who he joined from Toulouse in January 2019 but made only five appearances for before moving on in the summer of 2021, at the same time as club legend Lionel Messi.

After loan spells with Schalke, Benfica and Nice, the French defender joined the Ligue 1 club permanently a little over two years and has been a key figure for them ever since, helping Francesco Farioli’s team to an unbeaten start to this season and becoming a regular member of the France national team roster.

Todibo in a rare appearance for Barcelona.
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Todibo in a rare appearance for Barcelona.Eric Alonso/MB MediaGetty Images

Messi “is the best, you didn’t want to hurt him”

Reflecting on his time in Catalonia in an interview with The Ligue 1 Show, Todibo shared his experiences of training with eight-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi, but revealed he was never allowed to get especially close to him. “At Barcelona, they didn’t let us touch Messi in training. It sounds crazy, but it’s true. We had to be careful. It’s normal, he’s the best, you don’t want to hurt him,” the 23-year-old recalled.

Todibo thriving at Nice after Barcelona departure

After failing to establish himself at one of Europe’s biggest clubs, Todibo is now thriving with Nice, who have conceded only four goals in 13 league games this season and are just a point behind Ligue 1 leaders Paris Saint-Germain. The centre-back received his first France call-up in March and made his debut against Germany in September, also featuring in the record 14-0 thrashing over Gibraltar last month.

The former Barcelona defender heads the ball during the UEFA EURO 2024 Group B qualifying match between France and Gibraltar.
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The former Barcelona defender heads the ball during the UEFA EURO 2024 Group B qualifying match between France and Gibraltar.FRANCK FIFEAFP

Whether he’s playing under Farioli or Deschamps, the former Barça man feels he has now found his feet at the top level. “I can adapt to any style of play. The coach we have this year wants one thing, the one we had last year wanted something else. I just adapt. I don’t know if our style of play is the best to watch because people like transitional soccer these days. We play possession-based soccer, that’s what the coach wants. But if we take advantage of our opportunities, people will enjoy watching us!” Todibo concluded.

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