Relatively straightforward in concept, but hard to do in reality unless you have the personnel.
First, water the pitch as much as you can. That’s why Messi didn’t really get going against Chelsea at the Nou Camp in the first leg. He couldn’t plant and cut with the pitch so wet. Also, he couldn’t get the ball rolling naturally to use his usual feints to get the defender off balance.
Second, get a quick left back. Messi didn’t get much change out of Patrice Evra against Manchester United last year. He didn’t get much out of Bosingwa in the first leg either. Quick defenders take away Messi’s main advantage of burning the left back one on one down the wing before turning for goal with the defender on his back and too many options for the center backs to deal with. That’s when he either cuts in and blasts past the keeper or sets up late arriving Xavi and Iniesta or goes to the far post for Henry. I bet he struggles against Ashley Cole though Ashley has lost a step since leaving Arsenal. I’d even consider playing Bosingwa as a shadow for Messi. He’d be more productive than Ballack was in the first leg.
Third, get him moving right to left parallel to the goal line. Do not give him the wing and do not let him play a one two to get behind the left back on the wing. That’s death. As he cuts across, the defensive midfield player has to pick him up, the center half has to stay goalside of Eto’o for the diagonal run to receive the Messi reverse ball and the left back has to stay goalside and to the outside of Messi so that he cuts off the one two reverse to Messi.
Fourth, have disciplined center backs to mark Eto’o’s diagonal runs. Let Messi have to take you on with a longer run.
Five, make him use his right foot. He isn’t entirely left footed, but he doesn’t have long distance power in his left foot and is below average with his right foot.
If people think this is theoretical, pull out the tapes of Man U vs Barcelona from last year (yes, he was just returning from injury) and Argentina vs Brazil from the South American Cup. That’s what happens when you put a fast marker on him and back that up with physical play on him and his teammates. Messi doesn’t like it when he can’t blow by you. Frustrate him and he’s easier to control. Kicking him is not going to work.
I’m back. Life took hold for a while and post Euro withdrawals made me take a break from blogging. But, like Rooney, I’m back. And let’s start with my last post where I stated very clearly that Ronaldo should stay at United. I want to revisit my logic and see what holds up.
1. He’s coming back to form now that his speed is returning following the ankle rehab. If he kicks it into high gear during the Champions League, he will once again be king – only and especially if he flatly denies wanting to go to Real since that nonsense has started again. Also, he needs to show more joy in the team’s performances.
2. Still stand by that. Now he has the Ballon D’Or. One more and he is at the top of the heap. And if they win a few more Champions League crowns – which they will if this team stays together – it’s guaranteed that he will be up there with Charlton and Giggs.
3. So Calderon is gone, Schuster is gone – and that was even before the season finished. Even faster than normal Real standards. And you still don’t know who the coach is going to be since Juande is only guaranteed through the end of the season. You will absolutely be the flavor till the next one comes around. And if Kaka is going to available, you might get played by Perez.
4. Still right. And United did win the World Club Cup so now they are also champions of the world. Whereas at Real you would be – well who can say given what impact you may or may not have had on the outcome. However, no quintuples on the horizon at Real for sure this year. Man U – get past Inter and draw Liverpool a few days later and I’d say you will win the league, win the Carling Cup, win the FA cup if you don’t play Arsenal before the final and will win the Champions League if you don’t have to play Barca before the final.
5. Still concur with my initial assessment. And with Berbatov at United, there’s even a better hold up man to distribute balls to you and to keep the central defenders honest instead of doubling up on you like Behrami did for West Ham.
6. Say you are staying and not going to Real right now and you will be a god.
7. Bet that. And then they will sign Aguero or the next best thing post WC 2010 and you will be like Figo once they signed Ronaldo.
8. All I can say is – Messi is a freak. He is currently like Jordan in his heyday. No one can stay with him. Ronaldo is lucky he is not playing in La Liga right now else he might not have won the Ballon D’Or.
9. Never mind that one. The way he is going with Portugal he might be back on the bench with Fergie in another six months though!
10. England is looking good though under Fabio.
11 and 12. Couldn’t agree with this more. Except you seem to keep on getting to win more trophies.
13. Kaka, Aguero and Benzema are going to move at the end of the season. Man City will throw around the cash and buy at least one or more stars – I bet Ronaldinho winds up there. Wait. This is not the time to leave.
14. La Liga is being propped up by Barca. Actually by Messi – note how they struggle when he doesn’t play a half. It’s now behind the Premier League and Serie A IMO.
All in all, Ronaldo, the answer is obviously that staying was the right decision. Look at the trophies you could win this year. And next and the next. The decision should be no different at the end of the season. But, and you heard it hear first, he will be gone after this season. And United, much as it pains me to say this, should sell him. Enough is enough. Take the 100MM – and make sure Real pays that since you have Man City as a counter to threaten both Ronaldo and Real – and buy Aguero and Valencia/Theo Walcott/Ashley Cole. I like Diego Capel as a left winger, but let’s see how Tosic and Nani pan out. Frankly, United could probably bank 50MM and let the chips fall where they may. If Ronaldo doesn’t shine at Real as brightly as he shines at United, where does he go from there? Inter?