Xabi Alonso breaks down how difficult it was to face Lionel Messi as a false nine
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Xabi Alonso once explained how difficult it was to defend against a prime Lionel Messi when he was playing in the false nine position.
The former Real Madrid midfielder, who spent five trophy-laden years at the Bernabeu, would come up against Messi on ten separate occasions between 2009 and 2014.
Most of the time, his side would struggle to handle the Argentine magician. In fact, Barcelona would pick up six wins out of a possible ten, with Jose Mourinho picking up just two victories.
Alonso previously stated that Los Blancos only started to control Messi when the Spaniard dedicated his entire game to marking Barca's main man.
"Me, Mourinho and Sergio Ramos talked about him a lot," he said back in 2017. "We only started to control Messi when I was marking him. We sacrificed positions for me to mark him, but once we controlled Messi the matches were even."
Alonso, who has transformed Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen since taking over as head coach in October last year, also opened up coming up against Messi in a fascinating interview with The Coaches' Voice.
Here, the former Spain international used a tactics board to show how Lionel Messi would operate in a false nine role.
Xabi Alonso tells you how hard it is to defend against Lionel Messi when he was playing in the false nine position.— Football Tweet ⚽ (@Football__Tweet) November 23, 2023
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The former Liverpool man also explained how difficult it was to defend against him. "He used to be in this, like, false nine -- you know, it's been told so much about the false nine," Alonso said.
"But Xavi used to come here to get the ball and when I used to go to press him -- this space -- Messi came from the number nine position to this position behind me.
"And they used to do two against one against me, and [Sergio] Ramos came to press Messi where this big space used to be created and when Messi got [the ball] he used to play for [David] Villa or for Pedro in that position."
According to the 41-year-old, Madrid would eventually adapt to Barcelona's tactics under Pep Guardiola and as a result, they soon discovered the best way to contain Messi.
He continued: "And that's... when we started controlling better this, I think that Ramos used to say, 'Xabi, Messi's coming.' And I didn't go to press Xavi where I would stay with Messi.
"They used to have more control, but they were not that dangerous. When we controlled a little better that situation, I think that we were closer to compete with them.