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Beckham wary of Messi threat at World Cup

David Beckham has warned that Argentina's Lionel Messi could take the World Cup by storm this summer but insists England are "lucky" to have an exceptional group of players themselves.

The England midfielder rates Barcelona forward Messi as "the closest player" to England's 1986 nemesis Diego Maradona but believes Fabio Capello can count on a number of key men when England mount their challenge.

Beckham told www.fifa.com: "Messi is one of the best players I've played against and also one of the finest players I've ever seen.

"For a little player, he's so talented. He's the closest player to Maradona that you can get, and he even plays in a similar passionate way too.

"He's successful and a really good person as well. I'm sure he'll go on to be even more successful in the future."

Asked who was England's answer to Messi, the 34-year-old said: "I think we've got many key players in our team: Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, John Terry, Rio Ferdinand - we've got players all the way through our team who are exceptional. We're lucky to have such a talented group of players.

"Fabio Capello is a special manager. He has so much experience. He knows how to win games and he knows how to win competitions.

"I'm sure he'll relish the time when he walks out as England manager to take charge of the team for his first match at a World Cup. To sit on the sideline and watch his team, I'm sure will be a proud moment for him.

"It's the biggest footballing competition in the world, so any player who is lucky enough to be part of a World Cup knows how special it really is.

"I've been lucky to have played in three and hopefully I'll be luckier still to play in a fourth. It really is an incredible feeling."

Beckham's high and low points in previous World Cups have both come against Argentina, and he may get another chance to face his old foes in South Africa in the summer, though England cannot face them before the quarter-finals.

The AC Milan midfielder, who would become the first England player to appear at four World Cups, said his best memory of past tournaments came against Argentina in 2002 - the side he was sent off against in 1998.

He added: "On a personal note I'd have to say the game against Argentina in 2002, where I scored the penalty [is my best memory].

"It's always special to beat your rivals, but obviously four years earlier I got sent off against them and we were beaten on penalties.

"To score the winning goal against them four years later was extremely special."

Belfast Telegraph