Man marking Messi, winning the battle while losing the war

Did Pablo Maffeo's man-marking of Lionel Messi teach us anything? The Man City loanee did well to keep Messi out of the match during the Catalan derby between Girona and FC Barcelona. Even though his side lost the match 3 - 0, he kept Messi off the score sheet and it got some people talking. How successful can man-marking be against Messi?


It is widely accepted that Messi is unplayable in a straight up match even when it seems like he has limited space and time on the ball. Pablo Maffeo's performance over the weekend did not leave Messi with enough space to scratch is head let alone drive at the defense with speed, the ball cemented to his foot.


Of course this is not the first time that Messi has been man-marked out of a match. Mateo Kovacic, in the recent Spanish Super Cup match, can be seen keeping an extremely close eye on Barca's main man. In this case he forced the Argentinian internation very deep in order to receive the ball. This took a lot away from the Barca attack




In 2007, Alvaro Arbeloa, then of Liverpool, was given the job of stopping Messi.

“Rafa Benitez came up to me and told me that I was going to be playing left-back. He is a left-footer who plays on the right and we knew that he would come inside every time he had the opportunity. I was a right-footer and as such it was easier to cut him off. It worked well,” Arbeloa recalls.


He was right, Liverpool knocked Barca out of the Champions League and Messi was largely ineffective during the tie. 


Between 2007 and 2017, many players have tried to deal with Messi’s threat, though very few have succeeded.


Back in 2011, Jose Mourinho asked Pepe to take on the task of keeping Messi quiet and it worked… until the the Argentine picked up the ball on halfway, embarked on a trademark dribble and put the ball in the back of the net.


Also in 2010, Sokratis Papastathopoulos frustrated Messi so much that the Argentine looked for refuge out on the right wing, abandoning his striking role.


Almost anything goes when it comes to thwarting Lionel Messi. 


Even Barca's current manager Ernesto Valverde has tried and failed to stop Messi in the past, giving Mikel Balenziaga the task in the 2015 Copa Del Rey final between Barca and Athletic Bilbao. Though Messi was just too good for his opponent on that occasion.


In reality there really is no way of stoping Messi in total. If you do end up slowing him down or limiting his influence on the match you have to worry about all the other weapons that come along with Barcelona. In effect it is always a case of winning the battle but losing the war.

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