You have probably noticed by now that Lionel Messi doesn’t exactly get involved during the opening minutes of a game, but there’s a method behind his genius, according to former Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde.
In a great feature on how Barcelona are preparing for the future of football, the 59-year-old, who replaced Luis Enrique as manager in 2017, describes how many of his players “interpret play.”
He told The Financial Times that “you can’t think, you must play” when on the pitch, but he admits that Messi is an exception to that methodology.
Messi often reserves the “first minutes” of each match for interpretation.
Rather than get involved in the opening stages, he ignores the ball and examines the opposition defenders by walking around them.
Messi watches every single step with meticulous detail, fixing every movement of the opposition’s position in his head while spotting weaknesses in their game.
“As the game advances, he gets in little by little. But he knows perfectly where the rivals’ weaknesses are.” Valverde said.
In the feature, former club president Josep Bartomeu spoke about how players have rejected Barca in the past because of the incredible competition within the squad.
With players like Messi, Xavi and Andres Iniesta in their ranks in years gone by, it has been hard to break into the starting XI:
“Not all the players I wanted to sign have come to Barcelona.” explains Bartomeu.
“I have examples that I cannot say – very important players now playing at other clubs. We told them to come, they were excited but at the last moment they said: ‘I can’t sign because I will be on the bench,’
“We don’t want them. Sometimes, they are not strong enough to say: ‘where do you want me to play? Xavi is playing, why do you want me? You wan’t me to play in Lionel Messi’s position? I can’t,'”
One thing is for certain, Barcelona will never be able to replace Messi in our lifetime.