Lionel Messi’s touch maps every season since 2004/05 show how his position has changed

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Lionel Messi is right up there with the most entertaining players to ever grace a football pitch.

With 702 senior goals for Barcelona and Argentina, there’s no denying his career statistics are simply jaw-dropping.

Just as impressive is Messi’s trophy cabinet, which is filled with ten La Liga titles, six Copa del Reys and four Champions League medals alongside five Ballon d’Ors.

But it’s not what’s on paper that best sets him apart from others; it’s the sheer pleasure fans derive from watching him play.

Messi’s truly unique ability to score and set up goals no matter from anywhere in final third is superbly encapsulated in his profile on the Barcelona website.

“Technically perfect, he brings together unselfishness, pace, composure and goals to make him number one.”

There really is no better way to describe the player he’s become.

However, the Messi we see today is a far cry from the scrawny teenager who soared through La Masia to make his first team debut against Jose Mourinho’s Porto in November 2003.

The 32-year-old started out as a right winger and despite still being decidedly potent in such a role, he’s now much more versatile.

As posted on Reddit, a series of touch maps separated into each of Messi’s seasons at Barcelona brilliantly illustrates his positional journey.

Take a look…

2004/05 to 2015/16

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2016/17

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2017-18

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2018-19

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It’s an amazing way to visualise his 15-year transition from the right wing to a false 9 role.

The latest graphic shows Messi is seeing more of the ball on the right side than between 2010 and 2014, which suggests his role since then has allowed him to drift towards his favoured touchline as he pleases.

Interestingly, Messi’s touches during his best goalscoring season at Barcelona (2011-12) are concentrated slightly right of a typical striker’s position.

Since then, he’s been most active around the area a number 10 would occupy, albeit with a clear tendency to look for possession on the right side.

It must be a luxury for Ernesto Valverde to be able to send Messi onto the pitch knowing he can and likely will decide the result.

But in terms of choosing a specific role for Barcelona’s all-time top-scorer, it’s probably best just to let him do his own thing in the attacking half.

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