Lionel Messi has one of the greatest footballing brains in the history of the sport.
Yes, the Barcelona legend is a prolific goalscorer and yes, he’s a world-class playmaker to boot, but what makes Messi truly special is his ability to think two steps ahead of everyone else on the pitch.
One of the joys that comes with watching the Paris Saint-Germain star strutting his stuff is the knowledge that he’s only ever a few minutes away from producing something you’ve never seen before.
The joy of Messi
Whether it’s the legendary ‘Panenka free-kick’ or the iconic pass-penalty to Luis Suarez, Messi is universally loved for his uncanny ability to deliver moments that bring supporters to their feet.
So, as we hotly anticipate Messi’s return to action at the Parc des Princes, we thought that it only made sense to mine some of the incredible memories that prove his unrivalled footballing IQ.
And we’re once again looking back to free-kicks because Messi’s rise as one of the best set-piece takers in the business over the last five years has prompted some elaborate tactics to stop him.
Outthinking opponents from free-kicks
During his final seasons at Camp Nou, opposition teams would try every trick in the book to prevent Messi from scoring what felt like a free-kick every single week.
From players laying behind the ball to positioning defenders on the line to essentially just flooding the box, La Liga sides threw the kitchen sink at their attempts to neutralise Messi from a dead ball.
And that’s where Messi’s incredible footballing brain comes into things because the Barca legend had an ingenious response to the dilemma in 2020: why don’t I just pass instead?
Messi’s 1000 IQ free-kick
During a league clash at Celta Vigo, Messi lined up a free-kick in a position so tantalising that even watching the video with the knowledge that he passes still gives you the feeling that he’ll shoot.
However, Messi was thinking ten steps ahead of us all by producing a stunning cross that Luis Suarez headed home despite it looking almost certain that he’d go for goal until the last second.
All in all, it made for an inspired moment of footballing genius where Messi once again one-upped attempts to stop him from free-kicks, so be sure to relive the brilliant moment down below:
Genius. Pure genius.
Ten steps ahead of everyone
So preoccupied were Celta Vigo with stopping what looked almost certain to be a shot from Messi that Suarez was left virtually unmarked with two defenders instead choosing to cover the goal line.
In fact, there’s perhaps even reason to think that Suarez didn’t know the stunt was coming with his delayed reaction to the delivery suggesting that Messi showed some next-level improvisation.
Either way, the plan that Messi hatched worked an absolute treat and reminded the world that even covering every square-inch of the goal to prevent a shot doesn’t stop the lethality of his free-kicks.
When you have one of the world’s best finishers and playmakers in Messi, then you’re in trouble from every angle imaginable when he’s lining up a free-kick.