Lionel Messi has scored over 434 professional career goals in about 530 games in his career at Barcelona, which is incidentally, also the only professional club that has seen Messi grace it’s lush green and a rather mythically longer and wider, Camp Nou pitch.
There is little doubt now that Messi can count himself amongst the best ever who played the game. But on the contrary, it is consistent with reality that Messi has played, all his life, for the best club side in the world. Has there ever been a player who has played for the best, not one of the best, for this long a period at such a young age?
Make no mistake. Every match Barcelona enters, it is expected to win. The only possibility the other team wishes for is that Barcelona has an off day and may be that other team can sneak in a draw or a win. Apart from Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, there is no team on the face of this planet that has beaten Barcelona as badly as Barcelona beats them and all others on a weekend basis.
So with that in mind, the question arises. Have there been some ‘less talked about factors’ that have played part in Messi becoming one of the greatest forwards of all times?. That is, aside from his amazing ‘low center of gravity dribbling’ and ‘ball glued to his feet’ traits?
It turns out, there are. And here are the top four that you need to know before you start to disturb the ordering of ‘greatest of all times’ list with your friends over a FIFA game.
1.Lionel Messi, after all is said and done, is a one dimensional player who uses his short height and stature to manoeuvre past players quickly enough to wrong foot them and hence make openings for himself.
Apart from there, there is little in his arsenal that teams are afraid of. Sure, he can score from free kicks from time to time but the vast majority of his goals, his plays, his passes originate from this single fact, i.e his speed to change direction.
Is that how players are taught to play football when they start? I think, most of you would agree that in fact it is not. Players from a young age are taught to do everything on the pitch. To defend, to attack, to play in the mid field amongst a host of other skills.
Generally players develop all areas of their game before deciding which ‘one’ are they want to become the best at.
Lionel Messi did none of that. He basically gamed the system in the sense that he didn’t think about being versatile enough like the rest of the players or to keep defenders on their toes. When Messi first started with Barcelona, it was awfully clear that this guy could only score goals that Stephen Hawking would put away during a power surge.
In short, Messi was a right winger who drifted inwards. Apart from that, he had little to offer. Of course, his weaknesses were masked by the brilliance of Ronaldinho and Eto’o at his front and Xavi, Iniesta and Deco at his back.
2.Don’t get me wrong. Ronaldo was horrible at shooting as well. But he worked on it hard and long. Sometime later he became, arguably the greatest goal scorer of all times.
And Ronaldo isn’t the only one to improve his game after he had made his big money breakthrough with Manchester United. A lot of players improve their weak spots throughout their career in order to better themselves as a well rounded player on the field.
With Messi, well for brevity, let’s just say, there was no shoot and only dribble.
Some might point out that he did score a decent number of goals after the first couple of seasons with Barcelona. Yes he did and he scored some scorchers as well but let me let you in on a secret. Every player who plays at the professional level is capable of scoring masterclass goals once in awhile. It’s the consistency that counts.
Messi’s goals were simple finishes after he had left everyone eating his dirt behind him with his dribbling skills. His goals should be attributed to his dribbling and ball control rather than his finishing.
Again, this level of one dimensional play can only be associated with a handful of players. Messi is, sadly, one of them.
3.Eighty percent of his dribbling events follow a lather,rinse,repeat procedure which roughly follow the pattern of,
- Start with the ball on the right hand side or wherever Daniel Alves is playing.
- Dribble diagonally towards the center of the opposition penalty box’s half circle and
- if no one is marking him or in body contact with him, shoot. Otherwise pass either to Alves on the right or Neymar, Suarez on the left hand side of the penalty area.
There is no other pattern, no other type of dribble Messi is more accustomed to. Now, you might ask as to why teams haven’t figured that out and why haven’t they stopped him yet after all these years of total domination on the field?
Well, the simple reason is that Messi is the fastest player of all times when it comes to moving diagonally on the pitch and changing direction.
When Messi destroyed Arsenal in Champions League with his four goal haul, Wenger, in that moment of awe, didn’t say that Messi was a great forward or a great anything. He simply said that he has never seen a player who changes direction as quickly as Messi does.
And just for the record, Wenger when quizzed, answered Messi as the best player of all time as a counter question. Not as a proclamation.
4.Messi plays in the same position. All the time whether he is in form or out of form. It’s the same old formulae of starting on the right wing and cutting back if defenders overruns him and going along the wing if the defender stays at a distance.
Messi’s speed and acceleration ensures that he doesn’t get into trouble with any defenders who might have picked up on his simple yet effective dribble patterns.
Forget about what coaches tell soccer player that they need to be a player who can be a threat to the opposition from any position. Messi, took one position and made it his own.
5.Messi chose his team rather well. Although he was just a boy when he was made to leave Rosario and come to Barcelona, he (or his dad) were not naive enough to let him play for a club any smaller or less dominant than Barcelona.
Think about players like Pele, Di Stefano, C.Ronaldo, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho? The one common aspect between them as far as their career is concerned is that they all started out in third rate teams.
You can check the details via Wikipedia but is it possible that it’s just a coincidence that Messi has never played for a club whose name is not Barcelona since the day he started to play football in Spain at age 13?
It looks like Messi was more concerned about racking up his goal tally from his early teenage years when most kids of his age would kill just to be playing for a professional club let alone the best professional club.
6.If there is one lesson Messi’s career has taught would-be soccer players, it’s that you should never play if you don’t get your way. Forget about being a team player and forget about listening to your coach.
If he doesn’t play you in your preferred position, just go on the field and not play. Not make no effort, not know how to pass, not do anything that might help the team.
Examples of Messi not exerting himself to the fullest include the whole of World Cup 2013, and a particularly interesting match against Atletico Madrid
There is little doubt now that Messi is one of the all time greats. Let’s make that, one of the top five forwards of all times but perhaps he is also the smartest player of them all when it comes to decision making off the field and in the training grounds.