Lionel Messi became so fearsome from free-kicks at the peak of his powers that La Liga defences were terrified whenever he lined one up.
While the Paris Saint-Germain star might not have been scoring from set-pieces too often during the Pep Guardiola days, he was converting them with frightening regularity by the time we get to the mid-2010s.
In club football alone, Messi scored a dizzying eight free-kick goals in the 2018/19 season as well as finding the net with seven of them in the 2015/16 and 2017/18 campaigns respectively.
Messi terrifying La Liga with free-kick genius
Messi’s lethality from a dead-ball situation became such that you really did feel as though teams had conceded a goal as soon as they gave away a foul anywhere near their own penalty area.
And as such, La Liga sides had to think outside of the box in order to thwart Messi’s attempts to score a free-kick pretty much every six weeks.
They say that necessity is the mother of invention and that certainly proved to be the case with Barcelona‘s opponents going to lengths never seen before in their mission to nullify Messi’s free-kicks.
Whether it was laying players behind the wall as draught excluders or straight up positioning a defender on the line, sides were no longer prepared to give Messi any advantages at all.
In fact, things got so silly at one point that Real Sociedad once lined up for a Messi free-kick in 2020 by essentially dropping their defensive formation back to the goal line to get as many players in front of a potential shot as possible.
Photo: The lengths Real Sociedad went to vs Messi
This is how Real Sociedad defended Messi's free kick.— Barça Worldwide (@BarcaWorldwide) March 7, 2020
Madness 🤯 pic.twitter.com/pQ1o9bIJNC
And although Messi wasn’t quite able to unlock that exact tactic, he nevertheless continued to fight back in the free-kick arms race as he continued to work on new ways to best his adversaries.
When Messi beat Athletic’s FIFA tactics
So much so, in fact, that we will forever be amazed by a staggering goal that Messi scored for the Blaugrana back in 2021 that came in spite of the fact that Athletic Bilbao tried pretty much every trick in the book to stop him.
The Basque club were frankly using FIFA tactics to try and stop Messi when they constructed a six-man wall, including a player laid to the rear of it, with everyone behind the ball and a defender on the line.
You would think just from looking at Athletic’s set-up that Messi didn’t stand a cat in hell’s chance of solving the puzzle and unlocking the safe, but this is arguably the greatest athlete in history we’re talking about here – he makes the impossible, possible.
So be sure to relive the incredible moment that Messi proved not even FIFA tactics straight out of ‘Make a custom set piece’ can stop him from scoring spectacular free-kicks down below:
Video: Messi’s unreal free-kick for Barcelona vs Athletic Bilbao
The most impossible Messi free-kick ever?
With one effortless sweep of his left boot, Messi swung an inch-perfect shot above the heads of the jumping Athletic wall – rendering the laying player useless – and towards Yeray Álvarez on the line.
But despite Athletic having gone out of their way to ensure that Unai Simon had reinforcements alongside him, it ultimately meant nothing courtesy of Messi placing it so far into the top corner.
Even a full-blooded fling of Álvarez’s body that saw him barreling into the post wasn’t enough to stop what might well be the most unlikely of Messi free-kick goals in history simply because of the fact there was so much going against him.
Yet, it just goes to show that while opposition teams can come up with new ideas to stop Messi, the legend himself will simply muster his own new tactics to unravel them in an instant. Unreal.
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