What Position Does Messi Play? A Comprehensive Analysis of the Football Icon’s Journey
What Position Does Messi Play?
Lionel Messi, often considered one of the greatest footballers of all time, has had an illustrious career spanning over two decades. Throughout this time, his playing position has evolved and adapted to the needs of his team and the changing dynamics of the game. In this comprehensive analysis, we will explore the various positions Messi has played in, from his early days at La Masia to his current role at Paris Saint-Germain.
Table of Contents
1. The Early Years at La Masia (2000-2004)
During his time at Barcelona’s famous youth academy, La Masia, Lionel Messi primarily played as a central attacking midfielder or as a left winger. At this stage in his career, Messi saw himself as a typical Argentine “enganche,” a playmaking number 10 who operates in the space between the midfield and attack.
1.1. Left Winger and Central Attacking Midfielder
In his early days at La Masia and Barcelona junior teams, Messi was often deployed on the left wing or as a central attacking midfielder. He showcased his dribbling skills and vision, creating opportunities for his teammates and scoring goals himself. This period laid the foundation for Messi’s development as a versatile forward.
2. The Breakthrough at Barcelona (2004-2008)
When Messi transitioned to the first team in 2004, he was initially played on the right wing, sharing game time with Ludovic Giuly. This was due to the presence of Ronaldinho on the left wing and Samuel Eto’o as the central striker in Barcelona’s 4-3-3 formation.
2.1. Right Winger
During this time, Messi’s playing style was predominantly focused on dribbling down the flank and finding his attacking partners with crosses and through-balls. As he gained more experience and confidence, he started to drift into central areas and take more shots on goal, resulting in steadily increasing goal returns in these first few seasons.
3. The False 9 Era under Guardiola (2009-2014)
In 2008, Pep Guardiola took over Barcelona, and he gradually started to play Messi centrally more often, but not as a number 10 behind a center-forward. Instead, Messi was used as a False 9 in a “strikerless” 4-3-3 system.
3.1. False 9
As a False 9, Messi would drop deep and act as a playmaker for the wide forwards while also serving as the team’s central striker in the final attacking phase. This allowed Messi to use his skills as a number 10 to create chances for his teammates and score goals himself. The False 9 role enabled Messi’s best qualities to shine with incredible regularity, including his passing, dribbling, and finishing abilities. This period saw Messi win four consecutive Ballon d’Or awards from 2009 to 2012.
4. The MSN Era with Suarez and Neymar (2014-2017)
The arrival of Luis Suarez in 2014 marked a major shift in Messi’s playing position and role. Barcelona still lined up in a 4-3-3 formation, but now Suarez operated as a more traditional center-forward, with Messi moving back out to the right wing.
4.1. Right Wing with a Central Influence
With Suarez playing as an orthodox striker and Neymar on the left wing, Messi was given more freedom to roam from his starting position on the right. The trio of Messi, Suarez, and Neymar (MSN) formed a dynamic and fluid front line, with lots of interplay and interchanging. The MSN era saw the trio score an astonishing 364 goals between them in their three seasons together.
5. The Final Barcelona Years (2017-2021)
After Neymar’s departure in 2017 and the subsequent managerial changes, Messi’s role and position at Barcelona became less defined. He was used in various attacking roles, including as a striker, a playmaker, and even reprising his False 9 role at times.
5.1. Adapting to Different Roles
With constant changes in personnel and formations, Messi showcased his versatility by adapting his play to the needs of the team. He continued to score goals, create chances, and dictate the flow of the game, solidifying his position as one of the world’s best players.
6. The Move to Paris Saint-Germain (2021-Present)
In August 2021, Messi joined Paris Saint-Germain, marking the beginning of a new chapter in his career. His playing position at PSG has primarily been as a right winger, but with a more central influence, similar to his role during the MSN era at Barcelona.
6.1. Right Winger and Central Creator
At PSG, Messi has been given the freedom to drift into central areas and combine with his teammates, such as Neymar and Kylian Mbappe. He has also taken on more responsibility as a playmaker and has shown an increased tendency to shoot from outside the box.
7. Messi’s Evolution: A Summary
In summary, Lionel Messi’s playing position has evolved throughout his career, from his early days as a left winger and central attacking midfielder at La Masia, to his right-wing role during his initial years with Barcelona’s first team, and his iconic False 9 role under Guardiola. The MSN era saw Messi return to the right wing with a central influence, while his final years at Barcelona and current role at PSG have showcased his adaptability and versatility.
8. Future Prospects: What to Expect from Messi
As Messi moves into the twilight of his career, it is likely that his playing position will continue to evolve. He may take on more of a playmaking role, focusing on creating chances for his teammates and scoring goals from deeper positions. Regardless of the position he plays, there is no doubt that Messi will continue to dazzle fans with his skill, creativity, and goal-scoring prowess.
9. The Impact of Messi’s Playing Position on His Legacy
Messi’s ability to excel in various positions and roles throughout his career has undeniably contributed to his status as one of the greatest footballers of all time. His versatility and adaptability have allowed him to maintain a high level of performance, even as his physical attributes have changed with age. By continually evolving his game, Messi has ensured that his legacy in the world of football remains unmatched.
Lionel Messi’s journey through various playing positions is a testament to his incredible skill, adaptability, and football intelligence. From his early days at La Masia to his current role at Paris Saint-Germain, Messi has consistently showcased his ability to perform at the highest level, regardless of the position he plays. As fans of the beautiful game, we can only sit back and enjoy watching the evolution of this football icon as he continues to write history on the field.