Gary Neville's battled the best players in the world – but his scariest ever opponent was an Iranian striker who used to manage the nation.
Ali Daei was boss of England's World Cup opponents Iran a few years before Carlos Quieroz took over. But before Daei became a manager, he was striking fear into the hearts of defences across Europe during a stint for German giants Bayern Munich.
Daei was so prolific as a player, that he was the highest scoring men's international star with 109 in 148 matches until Portugal legend Cristiano Ronaldo usurped his record last year. And Neville felt Daei's fearsome presence first-hand when he faced the 6'4 powerhouse during Manchester United's Champions League group stage tie against Bayern in 1999.
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Neville was guarding United's right flank when Daei came on as substitute in the 63rd minute. The ex-right-back admitted he was terrified at the sight of Daei coming onto the pitch, and declared no other player ever scared him as much as the former centre-forward did.
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But luckily Daei didn't hit the net in the 2-2 draw. And he remained on the bench when the Red Devils met Bayern again in the final and staged one of the greatest comebacks in European history, scoring two late goals to overturn the German giants' 1-0 lead to lift the trophy.
Speaking on their encounter when asked who the scariest player he faced was in a TikTok clip, Neville said: "Bayern Munich 1999 in the group phase, (Carsten) Jancker was upfront with (Giovane) Elber. But then Elber went off and the Iranian 6'4 centre-forward came on."
Luckily for England, Daei won't be around to instill fear in the current crop of Three Lions stars during their clash with Iran. Trent-Alexander Arnold is likely to occupy Neville's former position in defence as Reece James missed the tournament due to injury.
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