In a past interview, Xabi Alonso discussed his experience defending against Lionel Messi when he was operating as a false nine. He emphasized the immense challenge of playing against Messi because of his exceptional abilities in that role.
Between 2009 and 2014, an ex-Real Madrid midfielder faced off against the talented footballer, Messi. Despite his prior success with Bernabeu, Alonso struggled to handle Messi in the ten games they played, losing six while his team only won two. In an effort to contain Messi, Alonso and his team developed tactics around marking him, leading to more balanced games when successful. In a recent interview with The Coaches’ Voice, Alonso, now the head coach of Bayer Leverkusen, used a tactics board to analyze Messi’s false nine role.
According to a recent interview with a former Liverpool football player, defending against Messi is no easy feat, especially when he plays as a false nine. The player, Alonso, explained that Barcelona’s Xavi would recover the ball and when Alonso tried to press him, Messi would exploit the space behind him. This created a two-on-one situation that allowed Barcelona to pass to Villa or Pedro in that area. Despite this challenge, Alonso remained confident that Real Madrid would eventually learn how to restrict Messi and understand Barcelona’s tactics under Guardiola. Interestingly, Ramos would alert Alonso when Messi was nearby, but Alonso never sought advice from Xavi on how to position himself in relation to Messi.
In the past, they didn’t really cause fear, but they did have an advantage. It appears that we were better at handling circumstances when we held more control over them.