A Magician With The Ball

Soothing wind sweeps across the field. The stadium is exuding the sparkly scent of water-soaked grass. Finely textured green expanse is breathing rhythmically with an almost Buddha-like temperament…

The two teams line up at the center of the court, exchange hand-shakes and the referee tosses the coin and lets the winner choose attacking or defensing part in the first half. The players of the respective team get to their strategic positions and the ball is placed at the center of the court, a ball sleepily waits before being touched by the Nike-air-soles-worn svelte legs…

The whistle blows… kick-off gets initiated…roaring fans’ adrenaline shots high…

What follows for the next 90 minutes is a pure poetry, a coordinated concert and a technical epiphany.

That’s quite some poetic writing. Isn’t it…😉 ?

It’s all because of the effect of a cute + creative + capricious player named Linonel Messi, lovingly known in the football community as messi.

In this post, I want talk about the other-worldly skills of messi which makes him nothing short of a magician with the ball. Here’s why…

“Every great magic trick consists of three parts or acts.

The first part is called “The Pledge“. The magician shows you something ordinary –He starts the run at a minimal pace, straight at you. You are backing off gently or just covering your territory because it doesn’t make any sense to move. There’s nothing alarming about the situation – you’ve been in plenty of such benign one on ones with other attackers before. He is getting closer to you, into your territory, where you feel comfortable and want him to be. It’s almost as if he’s inviting you to inspect the ball; to win it off him. But of course, that probably isn’t his intention.

The second act is called “The Turn“. The magician takes the ordinary run and makes it somewhat extraordinary. Shifting his body weight on to his left side, he takes a couple of strides away from you. Now you’re looking for the reason… but you won’t find it, because of course you’re not really thinking. In fact you are confident that you can track him and win the ball with your stronger right foot. You know he’s going to bamboozle you. But you wouldn’t clap yet. You are waiting for him to falter, take a touch too heavy. And then you decide it’s time to intercept and stretch your right leg forward into the path of the magician.

That’s where he pulls off the third act, the hardest part, the part we call “The Prestige“.
Your right foot is on his path, where you want it to be. But he is more ingenious than you thought. And quick too. With a simple flick, he has put the ball into that miniscule pocket of space between your rooted right foot and the next defender at whom he has already set his eyes on. And then he jumps and glides over your challenge, that low center of gravity helping him regain his composure and the ball. Once completely in control of the situation, he proceeds on to the next guy and then the next and so on and so forth. All you can see is the back side of his number 10 jersey with the name wirtten on it – MESSI.”


Another important aspect of Messi’s play is his acceleration. Its not speed that beats defenders, but the ability to go from a slow speed to a fast one in a short period of time. Messi’s small stature make him able to accelerate at a blistering pace. Because he has less mass to move, acceleration is easier for him. He’s not the fastest player out there, but he can beat defenders because he accelerates faster than anyone.

He is better than anyone else at dribbling because of his brilliant mind. Messi knows where the space is, and instinctively dribbles into it. He’s not always dribbling to beat defenders; sometimes he makes a run to drag defenders towards him, then he makes an incising through ball. When he dribbles, he does so laterally. He’ll cut across the field, dragging defenders with him. This creates space on the field for everyone and provides angles for passes. When the time is right, he’ll lay off a through ball for his teammate.

Lastly, he is special because he has an attitude towards dribbling that says: “I can beat you“. He doesn’t mind taking on four defenders because he knows he has the ability to beat them. Instead of being timid on the ball, he has tenacity. Aggression is a large part of his game. Without his tenacious attitude he wouldn’t be nearly as good.

Messi’s sudden bursts of acceleration and sudden stops are what is so unique about him along with other skills he has in his bag, I found a video made by ESPN’s sports science explaining his goal with science.


Simply put, sudden bursts of pace while changing direction while faking it with at least 2 skills while there is no space to run into with 4 players around (sometimes  > 5) and all this while having close control.

Stand still. Then, make a motion to move straight ahead, take a small step or two, now try turning 90 degrees to your right while bursting into your top speed in a fraction of a second or a second, sprint for 3-5 seconds and make a sudden stop while turning 90 degree to your left at that speed. Do this without ball for 10 minutes. You’ll know why Messi’s dribbling is adored.

A prolific goalscorer, Messi is known for his finishing, positioning, quick reactions, and ability to make attacking runs to beat the defensive line. He also functions in a playmaking role, courtesy of his vision and precise passing, and is an accurate free kick and penalty kick taker.  His pace and technical ability enable him to undertake individual dribbling runs towards goal, in particular during counterattacks, usually starting from the halfway line or the right side of the pitch. Widely considered to be the best dribbler in the world, and one of the greatest of all time, with regard to this ability, his former Argentina manager Diego Maradona has said of him: “The ball stays glued to his foot; I’ve seen great players in my career, but I’ve never seen anyone with Messi’s ball control.” Beyond his individual qualities, he is also a well-rounded, hard-working team player, known for his creative combinations, in particular with Barcelona midfielders Xavi and Andrés Iniesta.



About Deepak Devanand

Seeker of knowledge
This entry was posted in Football and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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