Lionel Messi is now considered one of the greatest soccer players of our generations, with some even calling him the greatest player of all time.
And when you look at what he has achieved at just 29 years of age those statement carry a lot of weight:
- 5 time FIFA World Player Of The Year
- Best International Athlete at the 2015 ESPY Awards
- All Time Leading Goal Scorer For Argentina (58 Goals)
- All Time Leading Goal Scorer For His Club Barcelona
- Olympic Gold Medalist in 2008
And the list really does go on…
But what is it that makes Messi so great?
When you look at his physique there is nothing all that special. In fact as a child he diagnosed with growth hormone deficiency, which stunted his growth significantly. But even this major setbacks didn’t stop the Pulga Atomica (Atomic Flea), as he is affectionately known by his fans, from becoming the best player in the world.
So let’s take a closer look at Lionel Messi and how he approaches the game of soccer to brings some of these attributes into you game.
How To Play Soccer Like Messi
Messi’s major strength is his ball handling skills. When Messi dribbles the ball it’s like it is attached to his feet. He can run at full speed, keep full control of the ball and change direction or pace at any moment to out maneuver his opponents.
To play like Messi you need to learn how to dribble and maneuver like Messi. These tips will help you become a great ball handler.
Keep The Ball Close To Your Feet
All great dribblers keep the ball close to their feet. You want to aim to make as many touches as possible and never let the ball more than a metre away from you.
A simple snaking drill in and out of tightly grouped markers will help build your fundamental dribbling skills
- Set up 10 markers in a straight line no more than 2 metres apart
- Start at one of the markers and begin to weave in and out
- Focus on touching the ball every two to three steps
- The trick is to start slow and keep full control over the ball, as you ball control improves start to speed up.
- Time yourself and aim for the fastest time and the most touches from one end to the other
Maintain Your Awareness Whilst Dribbling
When trapping and dribbling the ball you need to know what is going on around you and what the defenders are doing.
Watching the defenders allows you to catch them off balance, especially if you watch their hips to see which way the body weight is moving then plan your attack in the other direction.
It also helps you to see where your teammates are so you can look for passing opportunities to set up goals or attacking moves.
- Complete the above snaking drill but this time don;t look at the ball. Keep your focus up and begin to control the ball with your feel instead of you eyes.
- Also kicking a ball at a wall whilst keeping your eyes up can help improve your feel for the ball.
Vary Your Speed
One of Messi’s great strengths is his explosive speed. He will often approach a defender in a slow jog, then at the perfect time when the defender starts to move in one direct Messi will explode past them in the opposite direction.
- Set up markers in a line similar to the snaking drill but this time spread them out 5 metres apart.
- In this drill you will still weave in and out of the markers but you will alternate your speed
- Sprint to the first marker touching the ball with every step. When you reach the first makers slow to a very gradual jog still maintain control.
- Alternate your speed like this in between every marker.
Maintain A Low Centre Of Gravity
Messi had a slight advantage in this area as he is only 170 centimetres. But even for taller players you will want dribble with your head over the ball, staying as low to the ground as possible. This is in contrast to stand very stiff and erect.
The benefit of this is that you are able to change direction quicker and are less likely to be bumped off the ball.
If you watch Messi play, you’ll notice that even though he is much smaller than most defenders he never gets pushed around or bumped off the ball because he keeps his body’s centre of gravity as low as possible.
Play and Practice Constantly
There is no substitute for having time with the ball at your feet. Walk to the shops, around the school ground, hanging out with friends take a soccer ball with you. With every touch your feel and skill will improve.
You really need to love the game of soccer.
Messi was fanatical about soccer as a kid and still loves the game today. He’s quoted as saying:
‘First of all you’ve got to love the game.’ How much? ‘Well … from the age of three I played every day: every morning, afternoon and night. Inside the house, too. I’d break things. My mum would go mad …’
From this constant practise you’ll notice how much more control you have over the ball.
Practice Under Great Coaches
To be the best you need to learn from the best. Quality coaches and professional soccer players know the game inside and out and even simple little tips about how to improve your technique can make immediate and massive improvements to your game.
Even if your club or school coach is a great coach it’s always good to train and play with different players and coaches. This is where Soccer Coaching Camps can really help you get to that next level.
Australian Sporting Camps run soccer camps and clinics every school holidays and have coaching clinics with A-League starts teaching the latest cutting edge soccer drills.
By practising hard and trying some of the drill listed above you’ll improve your dribbling and ball handling skills and begin to emulate one of the greatest of all time, Lionel Messi.
Find Upcoming Soccer Camps in Australia
Our camps provide the chance to meet your sporting idols and make friends while having fun playing your sport. An innovative program covers all facets of soccer, and is designed to improve your skills and maximise enjoyment.
Get involved in a school holiday soccer camp in these school holidays.