His favorite victims are Barcelona’s Espanyol, Athletic Bilbao or Sevilla. But in recent months, it has been Ligue 1 goalkeepers who shudder at the thought of seeing Lionel Messi take a free kick. Lille’s Lucas Chevalier is the latest in the conclusion of an amazing match between Paris and Lille (4-3) last Sunday. Crazy success analysis in an inaccessible exercise for the vast majority of players.
Where does he shoot from and to what end zone?
If PSG is awarded a free kick in an area 20 to 28 meters away, rather than on the right of the field facing the goal, there is a good chance it will deflect into a goal. These are Lionel Messi’s favorite areas. Especially since it is ideal for a left-handed person. From 20 to 25 meters, the Argentine is like his sofa. Including when the foul is committed to the left of goal and the free kick appears to be in a better position for a right-hander. His ability to get around or over a wall is his main strength. His farthest success dates back to September 8, 2012, against Paraguay, over 30 meters to the pivot.
If you’re a goalkeeper, watch out for the right corner (facing the goal). With 28 successes in this area of the rival cage, Messi did not leave much suspense in his preferential circle. In total, he took 44 direct free kicks into the right netting. The Argentine’s disposition of serving the ball as close to the posts as possible gives him a very high success rate.
How did he hit them?
His style is always the same. Alternate step, two supports, one with the left foot and one with the right, then the strike. And this, regardless of the choice of direction, the surface of the foot used or the force used. One thing is developing: his supporting foot twists, depending on where Lionel Messi kicks the ball. If he decides to fly over a wall or curl around on the closed side, which he does most of the time (40 times out of 61 successes), his foot letting his ankle twist nearly 90 degrees for him allows you to sleep as much as possible. The effect is immediate: the ball flies away, turns on itself and sometimes goes down very quickly into the opposite goal.
But here’s where the Pulga can be unpredictable, its technique is similar in some detail in every attempt. Against Lille (4-3), for example, he found the side open, without a wall, for the sixteenth time in his career. All thanks to the rotation of the pelvis and the almost invisible gaze of the opposing goalkeeper. Messi also knows how to catch by going under the wall, low to the ground (3 times). And twice, he scored a cross.
When will it be successful?
Grégory Coupet must remember that October 4, 2008. As he put his wall into an Atlético Madrid shirt, he saw rambunctious French goalkeeper Lionel Messi quickly play a free-kick for the first success of his career. Since then, as we’ve seen, the left-hander has refined his technique to become a constant menace. In 2018, Fernando Signorini, the physical coach of Argentina’s selection, believed that the real impetus for Messi’s career dates back to the 2009 march … in Marseille, under the orders of Diego Maradona, the coach at the time.
“During a session, he placed all his attempts three meters above or beside her,” he told the Spanish channel La Sexta. He was going to the locker room, making a nod of anger. (…) Maradona arrived, rested the ball in the same place, with fatherly behavior, and told him: Listen to me, when you’re kicking the ball, don’t pull your foot back so quickly because otherwise it doesn’t know what you want. You have to make him understand what you want. »
A tale that feeds the legend of filiation between Diego and Leo. Messi got great in 2012 or 2013. His best seasons in practice were 2015-2016 (9 successes), 2017-2018 (7) or 2018-2019 (8).
What is his rank in the hierarchy?
The sources that calculate professional direct free kicks vary. It seems difficult to make an accurate and firm classification. But everyone agrees on one point: Brazilian Juninho is No. 1 with 77 or 78 units in club and selection. Leonis, the former master of the matter, will follow, in a state of chaos, his compatriot Ronaldinho, Argentine Diego Maradona, Frenchman Michel Platini, Englishman David Beckham, Portuguese Cristiano Ronaldo and Serbian Sinisa Mihajlovic, who disappeared recently.
All have exceeded, or could have exceeded, 60 career free kicks. This is also the case with Lionel Messi who has 50 successes at Barcelona, 9 with Argentina and 2 at Paris Saint-Germain. This sum of 61 is reliable. However, there is controversy surrounding the one that occurred on 24 March 2012 against Mallorca: was his midfield shot taken by a teammate or not? This will bring the countdown to 60. In reference to history, five of the aforementioned names have developed in Ligue 1. And three in the Paris Saint-Germain shirt …