Former Barcelona right-back Nelson Semedo spent three years at the Camp Nou alongside captain Lionel Messi and has opened up on what it’s like to play and train with the Argentine.
The Portugal international admits it’s a difficult job trying to describe Messi but also made the surprise claim that the 33-year-old doesn’t practice free kicks in an interview with The Telegraph’s John Percy.
Wow. I really don’t have many words that can describe how good he is. You know what makes him even more amazing? I never once saw him take a free-kick in training, in all of the time I was there. I swear he never did! We always used to practice shooting from distance but Messi never took a free-kick. For him, it was just natural. They say practice makes perfect – with him it was no practice and it was still perfect!
An unbelievable player, you can’t explain it to anyone really. The free-kick against Liverpool [in the Champions League semi-final in May 2019], I was standing right behind him. In one of my first games in Barcelona, he got the ball and went past three, four and then five players. Subconsciously I was there on the pitch thinking “how can this guy do this?” He makes good players look bad.
Messi is well-known for his brilliance at dead-ball situations and brought up his 650th goal for Barcelona recently from a free-kick. The forward has now scored 49 times from a direct free-kick, according to Opta.
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Messi’s Extraordinary Record
Messi’s extraordinary ability to score from free-kicks has led teams to go to great lengths when it comes to defending one of the Barcelona captain’s efforts.
Teams have regularly been spotted with all 11 players behind the ball, players on the goalline, and even men lying behind the wall to try to prevent Messi from finding the back of the net.
Real Sociedad provide a good example of what Messi has had to face in La Liga recently.
Curious La Real setup to defend Messi free kick pic.twitter.com/whBKUilMBd
— Samuel Marsden (@samuelmarsden) March 7, 2020
It’s no surprise to see teams getting inventive, particularly as the Barcelona captain has even been outscoring entire teams when it comes to free-kicks.
Leo Messi has scored more free kick goals in the past 5 seasons than any club in Europe's top 5 leagues 🤯 pic.twitter.com/U3g23RzRD0
— ESPN Australia & NZ (@ESPNAusNZ) April 29, 2020
Messi’s Free-Kick Technique
Yet Messi hasn’t always had such great success with free-kicks. Argentine legend Diego Maradona famously claimed to have helped Messi improve his technique when the two worked together with the Argentina national team.
Meanwhile, Dr Rajpal Brar has recently analyzed Messi’s technique and told the Squawka Podcast that the Barcelona star effectively sprains his ankle when he takes a kick.
When Messi strikes the ball, he shifts his hip to the right. He really moves his hips to the right as he’s striking to open up his left strike leg.
And what that does on his plant leg is that it shifts all the weight to the outside of the foot. So then when he follows through and he’s striking the ball – that left leg coming from left to right – now everything is going onto the outside of his ankle almost like what happens when you sprain your ankle.
We call it ‘inversion sprain’ when it twists inwards – it’s that same force. You have all that force on the outside of your ankle and it twists inwards. But in Messi’s case, he’s trained himself and his body to control that motion.
Messi’s free-kick taking is just another example of the Argentine’s extraordinary ability that helps set him apart from the rest. Indeed a free-kick for Barcelona in and around the penalty area often feels as dangerous as a penalty when Messi is around.