Football: Lionel Messi, a walker in the service of PSG

Do not panic. If your heart beats for Paris-Saint-Germain (PSG) and you miss the kickoff of the Champions League match in Bruges on September 15, you won’t have missed a thing. At least not a goal from Lionel Messi. According to figures from the Transfermarkt site, the man with 672 goals with FC Barcelona likes to take his time and has never scored in the first three minutes of play. The first quarter of his matches is also the one in which it turns out to be the least prolific. Everything except a statistical coincidence.

When others are already doing high-intensity races, the Argentinean prefers to walk, as if indifferent to events. In 2015, the British journalist Simon Kuper attends a Barça match against Atlético de Madrid and recounts this phenomenon in his book The Barcelona Complex: Lionel Messi and the Making – and Unmaking – of the World’s Greatest Soccer Club (Penguin, 416 pages, untranslated): “For the first five minutes, he didn’t look at the ball or take part in the game. He walked in defense and looked at everyone’s positioning. Javier Mascherano passed him a pass but he simply let the ball slip because he was not ready to play ”, he writes.

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In reality, Messi is quite busy. “He looks at each of his opponents to see where he is positioned and how the defense is articulated”, entrusts a Catalan leader to Kuper. And when he stings his first sprint, the six-fold Golden Ball has thus analyzed, scanned and photographed the match.

Better understand the flaws

Former recruiter Luis Ferrer is familiar with the phenomenon having studied it on behalf of PSG between 2013 and 2015, when PSG crosses Barça’s route six times in the Champions League. He draws a conclusion: “Messi walks to better understand the game, to see where the flaw is. “ The Argentinian is thus never as dangerous as when he seems in his world, lost in his thoughts, his head tucked into his shoulders.

From inaction comes action in him. Even the first five minutes have passed, Rosario’s child loses interest – apparently – in the course of events. “He disappeared from matches to better surprise and break the rules. That is to say, create the imbalance in a defense in place on an acceleration, a dribble or a gesture ”, develops his compatriot Luis Ferrer, today at the head of a player support structure, LF360.

In fact, Lionel Messi sometimes gives the impression of being a lost walker in the middle of the Paris half-marathon. In a football won by data, we can say a lot of things to the numbers, except that the PSG rookie is a machine to repeat the races.

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