Lionel Messi: I play deeper for Barcelona now but goals still the objective
Lionel Messi acknowledged that his role on the pitch has changed over the last year but said the idea is still to get forward and to score goals.
Messi, now 30, burst on to the scene as a right winger under Frank Rijkaard but was famously repositioned as a false nine under Pep Guardiola.
Luis Enrique then moved him back to the right — albeit with complete freedom of movement — to accommodate strike partners Luis Suarez and Neymar.
In Ernesto Valverde’s 4-4-2 formation, though, he increasingly finds himself in a deeper position, often dropping into his own half to get on the ball in central positions and dictate play.
“Yes, in the past year I have moved a bit deeper, getting to the goal from behind, unlike other years when I was more in the final third of the pitch,” Messi told Pepsi.
“So it’s true that I have moved a few metres back, but still with the [same] idea of getting in the area and trying to score goals.”
It certainly hasn’t affected his goal scoring. Messi is the top scorer in La Liga this season with 24 and brought up his 600th career goal for club and country in Sunday’s 1-0 win against Atletico Madrid.
He is also the top creator in Spain’s top flight, too, having registered 12 assists in the league so far this season.
Former coach Luis Enrique said in 2016 that the five-time world player of the year would be the best player in the world regardless of where he plays on the pitch.
“Messi’s the best in the world in every position,” Luis Enrique said. “He plays with complete freedom to change his position as he wants.
“If he plays as a No. 9, No. 8 or No. 6, he’s the best No. 9, No. 8 or No. 6 in the world. He can judge the perfect pass from 40 yards; he can put the ball wherever he wants. For me, he’s the best player of all time.”
Messi returned to training on Wednesday after two days off to begin preparations for Saturday’s trip to Malaga and next week’s Champions League game against Chelsea at Camp Nou.
Meanwhile, a selection of first team and B team players, including England youth international Marcus McGuane, will face Espanyol in the Catalan Super Cup on Wednesday in Lleida.
Samuel Marsden covers Barcelona for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @SamuelMarsden.