Many managers have come up short in their attempts to stop Lionel Messi, but Carlo Ancelotti thinks he has the answer.
The former Real Madrid boss drew a diagram in his newspaper column explaining how to stop the Argentine.
However, he finished his article for Sina Sports rather ominously. It’s impossible, says the Italian, to stop Messi when he is “at 100 per cent physically”.
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Ancelotti, who will replace Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich in the summer, knows all too well about facing a red-hot Messi. The 28-year-old scored a hat-trick against his Madrid team in 2014 as Barcelona ran out 4-3 winners at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Getafe were the latest team to concede against Messi, the forward scoring his 22nd league goal of the season on Saturday in a 6-0 rout.
Check out Ancelotti's diagram
Ancelotti left Madrid in 2015, bringing an end to his days of having to prepare to face Messi at least twice every season, and he’s now revealed how he planned to thwart the five-time Ballon d’Or winner.
“Man-marking Messi is very complicated,” he said, per the Independent. “The defender marking him would have to be at a very high level.
“The best way to stop him is by defending as a team, keeping the space between the lines tight and not allowing him to touch the ball. You need a lot of players in midfield to make that happen. That reduces Messi's options and he will see less of the ball, at least in dangerous positions.
"We know that he likes to cut in from the wing and get the ball onto his left foot. But the problem is that Barcelona have more weapons than just Messi. If you focus on Messi, their other attackers can do the damage."
Wealth of attacking options
Ancelotti is spot on there. Luis Suarez, scorer of 42 goals this season, was an unused substitute in the win over Getafe yet Barca still managed to score six goals, Munir El Haddadi, Neymar, and Arda Turan also getting on the score sheet.
Managers can prepare all they want to stop Messi but it’s worthless is Messi is fully fit, added Ancelotti.
“If Messi is at 100 per cent physically, it is impossible to try to stop him, no matter who the coach is and what his strategy is,” the former Chelsea boss said.
“His enormous talent makes it nearly impossible to anticipate what he will do, so there is no way to keep him quiet.”
Ancelotti’s diagram seems to suggest that Messi, deployed on the right, must have all options closed off. The left midfielder must work with the left back to force the Argentine inside, where he is met by two centre backs and a defensive midfielder all looking to limit the space available for Messi to run into.
It seems a logical plan but Messi has proven countless times that he is unstoppable.