Barcelona's Lionel Messi shown to be 'ageing like a fine wine' in tactical analysis

  • Kobe Tong
FC Barcelona v Real Sociedad  - La Liga

Barcelona's Lionel Messi is undisputedly one of the greatest athletes in history.

With a record six Ballon d'Or trophies, the Argentine is arguably the finest player the beautiful game has ever seen and we're all privileged to have watched him play, either on television or in person.

Perhaps the only thing that has taken away from the hype around Messi's career is the fact his era just happens to have crossed with that of another bona fide legend: Cristiano Ronaldo.

And as the two greats wade deeper into their thirties, supporters have lauded Ronaldo for going to incredible lengths both physically and tactically in order to maintain his high performance levels.

Now, we're not trying to dispute those due compliments one iota, but we are inclined to think that Messi hasn't been getting the credit he deserves for making similar adjustments as he ages.

Messi continues to dazzle

The Barcelona star is evolving into more of a playmaker, dropping deep to produce some of the highest assist totals in Europe and still managing to score enough for the Golden Shoe.

It speaks volumes that this season is being deemed a quiet campaign for Messi when he remains La Liga's top scorer and has the most Man of the Match awards in Europe's top five leagues.

So, to better get to grips with how Messi is delaying father time at 32 years old, we've turned to a fantastic tactical analysis video by YouTuber 'Nouman'.

FC Barcelona v Real Sociedad  - La Liga

Tactical analysis

The content creator is one of the best in the business at analysing players and games, racking up over 200,000 subscribers for his efforts, and has now put Messi under the spotlight.

You can check out the full 10-minute video down below, but keep scrolling for our breakdown of the different tactics discussed and highlighted.

Gambetta dribbling

This unique style of dribbling, typical of Argentine players and particularly Diego Maradona, focuses on two key areas: skill and fooling the opponent.

It is typified by feinting in one direction, only to dribble the opposite way in order to bamboozle the defender and Messi is the master of changing course when a player shifts their body weight.

The most famous example of Messi using this style is when he floored Jerome Boateng in 2015.

But aside from populating YouTube compilation videos with hilarious clips of defenders falling over, it allows Messi to keep possession and draw in opponents to make space for his teammates.



Whenever Barcelona regain possession, Messi is immediately looking around him to see the geography of the back-line that's marking him and where the spaces are to exploit.

Knowing this information ahead of time allows Messi to be one step ahead of the defenders, eventually curving his runs into spaces that he already knows will deceive the marker.


Reading the play (space recognition)

Messi's phenomenal footballing brain allows him to pay attention to the runs and movements of defenders as much as his own, identifying when and where key spaces will open up.

When playing against a less mistake-prone defence, this largely consists of monitoring and influencing the runs of his fellow attackers in order to pull open spots that he can run into.

Again, Messi is constantly checking his shoulder when the ball is coming towards him or Barca are in the final third in order to have as much information to hand as possible.


Blindside runs

This is a very similar tactic that Ronaldo has used in his transition to playing as more of a poacher and allows Messi to maintain his high goal-scoring rate whenever he ventures into the box.

Messi is laser quick at noticing when defenders are ball watching, using it as an opportunity to alter his run out of their eyesight and break into space for when the cross arrives.


Even as he ages, Messi is just as ingenious and inventive as he was when he first burst on to the scene.

Sadly, there will come a day where the Barcelona star begins to decline, but find solace in the fact he's doing everything in his power to remain at the top of his game for as long as possible.

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