Former Real Madrid midfielder Xavi Alonso explained how menacing it was to defend against prime Lionel Messi when he was deployed in false nine position.
Xavi spent five trophy-laden years at the Spanish Capital. The Spaniard faced Messi on ten seperate occasions between 2009 and 2014.
However, most Real Madrid would face difficulty to face Guardiola’s Barcelona, as they would won six out of ten matches during the period. Jose Mourinho picked up two victories during.
Alonso explains the situation and stated that Messi came under control only when the Spaniard started man marking him for the entire game. He said back in 2017 :-
“Me, Mourinho and Sergio Ramos talked about him a lot.
“We only started to control Messi when I was marking him. We sacrificed positions for me to mark him, but once we controlled Messi the matches were even.”
To be frankly speaking, during that period, Messi was just unplayable and specially under Pep Guardiola’s guidance, Barcelona was the most dreaded team in Europe.
Xavi claims Madrid later discovered the tactics to contain Messi
Former Liverpool man explained to how difficult it was defending against Messi and said :-
“He used to be in this, like, false nine — you know, it’s been told so much about the false nine.
“But Xavi used to come here to get the ball and when I used to go to press him. This is when Messi came from the number nine position to this position behind me.
“And they used to do two against one against me, and [Sergio] Ramos came to press Messi where this big space used to be created and when Messi got [the ball] he used to play for [David] Villa or for Pedro in that position.”
However, Xavi later discovered a tactic to contain Messi. He continued :-
“And that’s… when we started controlling better this, I think that Ramos used to say, ‘Xabi, Messi’s coming.’ And I didn’t go to press Xavi where I would stay with Messi.
“They used to have more control, but they were not that dangerous. When we controlled a little better that situation, I think that we were closer to compete with them.”
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