How Lionel Messi’s role has changed

Lionel Messi’s role has naturally changed as he progressed through his incredible career.

What was an electric and lightning-fast player in his early days is now a more experienced and slower player. The fast-paced Messi, who operated close to the box, coming in from both flanks, is now operating in a deeper role.

Moving into his thirties has allowed Messi to become another type of player. The latest version of Messi – who is now 35 – is one more similar to what Xavi was for Spain and Barcelona.

His rich range of passing, creativity and intelligence has enabled him to extend his career and although there has been a lot of talk about a move to MLS, he could play at the highest level in Europe for at least another two seasons.

According to a report produced by Spanish outlet AS, in the 2022 World Cup against Australia, he made 61 passes and placed himself in a midfield role to play a part in the build-up.

Rodrigo De Paul makes his life easier. The Atlético Madrid man gave him the ball 14 times and he gave it to De Paul 11 times.

With Enzo Fernández, something similar happened. Messi supplied the Benfica youngster with nine passes and 12 went in the opposite direction. They were undoubtedly the two players with whom he combined the most; the players who helped him to be himself again in the centre of the pitch.

He is no longer the Messi who managed to score 50 goals per season for Barcelona, but his numbers are still impressive.

This season he has seven goals at less than halfway through the season and with the national team, those numbers are even better.

The Argentinian has 13 goals in eight games, although five of them came in the same friendly against Estonia. At the World Cup, he has netted three times in four games.

The Netherlands know they will have their work cut out if they are to contain Messi in their World Cup quarter-final.

Louis van Gaal was clear when speaking with journalists in Qatar. “Messi is the most dangerous creative player. He is able to create a lot and score goals by himself. But when they lose the ball he doesn’t play a lot and that gives us opportunities,” Van Gaal said.

Letting Messi receive the ball can spark danger. Pressing and stealing the ball from him is fundamental.

GSFN | Kieran Quaile

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