For any defender unfortunate enough to be facing Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo in the near future, Jerome Boateng has revealed what they can expect.
The Bayern Munich defender has had plenty of experience against the two in his Champions League run-ins against Barcelona and Real Madrid.
Of course, Boateng was part of the Germany defence that thwarted Messi in the 2014 World Cup final as Joachim Loew’s team beat Argentina 1-0 after extra-time.
SUBMIT AN ARTICLE
Apply to become a GMS writer by signing up and submitting a 250-word test article: http://gms.to/haveyoursay5
Article continues below
And now he’s passed on his advice - although it shouldn’t come with any guarantees that it will work, especially given that Messi done this to Boateng last season in the Champions League semi-finals.
Article continues below
But Boateng got up and wrote for The Players’ Tribune: “With Ronaldo or Messi, whatever option you choose is difficult if they come at you with open space. They’re just so fast.
“Neymar and Messi are low to the ground and can turn quickly, so it’s difficult for defenders like me, who are tall centre-backs.
“Ronaldo, he’s got the height, but he’s also got incredible speed, strength and a good header. You can’t be lazy or caught on your heels with those players, because they will win and they will score.
Just too good
“They are just too good for you to make even a little mistake. More than speed or technique though, as a defender you need confidence.
“Ronaldo, Messi, [Luis] Suarez, Neymar - they can all smell if you’re afraid to duel with them. One whiff and then they destroy you. So you gotta show up.”
On second thought, maybe a defender wouldn’t want to read Boateng’s ominous experiences.
The four aforementioned names have scored 127 goals combined this season and could all feature in this season’s Champions League final.
Messi, Suarez and Neymar almost certainly sealed Barcelona’s passage to the quarter-finals of the tournament as they helped the Catalan club secure a 2-0 win over Arsenal in the first leg of their last 16 bout.
Meanwhile, Ronaldo scored for Real Madrid in a 2-0 win in Rome at the same stage.
Go to think quickly
Boateng, who himself is vying for a second Champions League winners medal with Bayern, went on to stress that the key to containing world class strikers is to think quickly when threats arise.
“You have to assess the tactical situation. Quickly,” he added.
“Am I covered, with my other defenders on my back? If I have cover, I can risk going for the ball in a duel or tackle.”
It’s likely we will get to see Boateng’s plan in action at some stage in the coming months. Pep Guardiola’s Bayern threw away a two-goal lead against Juventus, leaving Turin with a 2-2 draw, but are firm favourites to progress to the last eight thanks to their two away goals.
So a duel with Barcelona or Madrid is likely to happen, and Boateng can show if he knows anything about stopping Messi or Ronaldo or whether he’s simply trying to convince himself.