The Slovenia international is a lynchpin presence within Diego Simeone’s side and the Argentine superstar says it is a pleasure to match wits with him
Lionel Messi has heaped praise on Atletico Madrid shotstopper Jan Oblak, hailing him as “one of the best goalkeepers in the world” while admitting he relishes the challenge of trying to best him.
The Slovenia international, who joined Diego Simeone’s side from Benfica in 2014, has established himself as one of the finest keepers in the game in recent years, and remains a lynchpin performer for Los Rojiblancos.
Earlier this year, he became the goalkeeper to achieve a century of clean sheets in La Liga with the least number of games, beating out Miguel Reina’s previous record of 222 by a whopping 40 matches.
He has picked up where he previously left off this term too, having kept out goals in nine of his 13 top-flight matches this season, to help establish Atletico as genuine title contenders against rivals and current holders Real Madrid.
He has conceded the fewest amount of goals in the league – just five – while only three goalkeepers have made more than his 39 saves.
That gives him a save percentage of 88.1 per cent, comfortably ahead of Yassine Bounou in second place, the Sevilla stopper saving just shy of 80 per cent of the shots he has faced.
Oblak made four saves when Atleti edged past Barca 1-0 last month, with Messi unable to find a way through on that occasion – and the Slovenian’s form has earned the plaudits of the Argentine, who offered unequivocal praise for him as an opponent to best.
“It’s nice to face one another,” the 33-year-old told Bud Football . “He is one of the best goalkeepers in the world at the moment, and it’s always good to fight against the best ones.
“It’s an extra motivation to be able to, or to try to, score a goal, with what it means and how hard it is, as he proves in every game he plays.
“So, it’s nice to see him outside but also face him in the games. It makes them more exciting.”