Sheffield United: Why Mo Besic, the man who marked Lionel Messi, can't wait to pull on Blades shirt for League Cup tie against Blackburn Rovers

For a man who earned a dream move to the Premier League on the back of shackling the great Lionel Messi in a World Cup game, the thought of a Carabao Cup second round game against Blackburn Rovers could be forgiven for not exactly setting the heart racing.

Monday, 26th August 2019, 7:01 pm
Lionel Messi of Argentina dribbles past Muhamed Besic of Bosnia and Herzegovina during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group F match between Argentina and Bosnia-Herzegovina at Maracana (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Instead, though, Mo Besic cannot wait. Tomorrow night, less than three weeks after his deadline-beating loan move to Sheffield United from top-flight rivals Everton, the Bosnian midfielder will make his debut for Chris Wilder's men against Tony Mowbray's visitors.

After three breathless games back in the Premier League, the cup tie will be a more low-key affair. But the man who marshalled Messi sees it as his chance to impress.

"I've seen the two home games so far at Bramall Lane and I can't wait to make my debut and feel the pitch for the first time," Besic, whose presence at this morning's press conference rather gave away the fact he would be involved against the Championship side.

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"I have been here two weeks now and I feel like I am settling in well. I'm very happy to be a part of this team, as I think the way Chris Wilder plays will suit me.

"When I was at Boro, we played very defensively but if anyone saw my early years in the Premier League, before my injuries, they would have seen I like to play hard, on the front foot.

"Be aggressive, tackle, play quickly. That's exactly what Chris wants, so I am very happy to be here and come back to that style of football."

Besic's move to South Yorkshire was eventually confirmed after the transfer deadline earlier this month, when the Blades lodged a deal sheet with the Premier League allowing them extra time to complete the formalities.

Manager Wilder, who confirmed striker Lys Mousset is also set to make his debut against Rovers, described Besic as 'an all-round central midfielder' and usually baulks at descriptions of players as 'defensive' or 'attacking' midfielders. "We just want good players who can do everything," usually follows.

"I can play everything," Besic confirmed.

"I've played as a 'six' before, just in front of the defence, and then had a spell before as an 'eight', a bit further up the field. I learned a lot about the position doing that.

"I'm normally a 'six' but I can play wherever. I just want to show what I can do and help the team."

Mo Besic: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

It was from that 'six' position that Besic impressed for his country - he was born in Berlin to Bosnian parents - against Argentina at the Maracanã in the 2014 World Cup, tasked with man-marking Messi in an eventual 2-1 defeat.

Besic didn't even think about trying to get Messi's shirt after the game - insisting that his Bosnian one means too much to him to swap anyway - and was plucked from Ferencváros, a former sister club of United's, by then-Everton boss Roberto Martinez.

In 2016 he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, and missed 16 months of action with Everton before joining Boro on loan; playing 45 minutes against the Blades at Bramall Lane, when fellow midfielder Lee Evans scored two stunners in a 2-1 United win.

During his time at Boro, he also scored against Wednesday at Hillsborough.

"Everything here is about the team," added Besic, who is still living in a Sheffield hotel as he waits for a house in the city.

"That's different to other places, where it can be about the individual. I train hard and hope to show my quality for the team. Everyone wants to play, of course - we are footballers - but it's different here because the team is the most important thing.

"But still, I will fight for my place.

"When I arrived I was very surprised at how good the team actually is. Everyone trains and fights like they play, which is what the manager wants. So I had to adapt to that, and already have.

"Chris is aggressive and inspires us to right more. Coaches are different but I like ones like Chris, who are always pushing the team to give more.

"We have so many characters in the team and a great manager, too. So I hope we can do more than just survive this season."