There are so many reasons as to why Lionel Messi is considered the best player of his generation. There is his phenomenal scoring record of notching in 10 consecutive seasons. His ability to thread a pass through the eye of a needle. His stunning array of free kicks and spectacular goals that could fill hundreds of highlight reels.
Perhaps his best attribute though is the way in which he dribbles with the ball. Messi makes running at speed with a ball glued to his feet look effortless. He glides across the pitch and around opponents as if they simply weren’t there.
How does he do it – and more importantly, how can you learn to dribble like Messi? We’ve dissected why the Argentinian is such a good dribbler and what you can do to try and replicate it.
Keep the ball close at all times
Messi is such a good dribbler because it is virtually impossible to get the ball off him. He always makes it extremely difficult for defenders by keeping it so close to his body, almost as if it is attached by a short rope to his ankles. You can develop this ability of close control and dribbling by practicing snaking through cones as quickly as possible. By attempting to get around the cones without touching them or going wonky, you’ll be learning the close control that makes Messi so good.
Keep your head up as you move the ball
When you watch Messi dribbling, one of the most notable things about his stance is the way in which his head is always up. Because he has such good close control, he doesn’t need to look down at the ball and wonder where it is – it’s always no more than a few centimetres from his feet. As a result, he is always look up and scanning the horizon for space to move into. If you can identify space and where you want to go with the ball, then you can avoid defenders which makes the threat you offer when dribbling much greater.
Try dribbling with the ball whilst through a tennis ball from hand to hand or juggle with two. This will improve your ability to multitask in football and keep your head up.
Balance using your arms
Sometimes, you’re going to run into trouble no matter how much you’ve kept your head up to avoid it. Messi is particularly susceptible to this as opponents double or even triple mark him to try and prevent him getting on the ball. When Messi finds himself swarmed by opponents, it’s his balance that gets him out of trouble. By dribbling with his arms out, he’s much more balanced and that can help him twist and turn in a different direction at a moment’s notice. That ability to change the way in which he’s going during transitions is crucial to Messi weaving his way out of tight spots.
Use your body in football and establish a low centre of gravity
Aside from keeping his head up, Messi also adopts a low centre of gravity. He always ensures that he is low over the ball, knees bent. There are several reasons for this. The first is that it helps to keep the ball closer to the body, the second is that you’re almost leaning over the ball to protect it from defenders and the third is that a low centre of gravity can make you harder to knock over. By getting low, you’re protecting the ball and improving your chances of keeping it under close control.
Accept passes with the foot furthest from your opponent
You’ve probably been told that being comfortable playing with two feet is important for shooting and passing, but it is also what makes Messi such an impressive dribbler. Watch him receive a pass and he will nearly always use the foot furthest away from his opponent to collect the ball. This gives him a small but vital amount of extra space in which to work and allows him to get away from any defenders paying close attention quickly.
It’s natural to want to bring the ball under control with the foot with which you feel most comfortable, but engaging your brain and using the one that is furthest away from an opponent will give you an advantage even before you’ve started on your dribble.
Messi is an exceptional player known for his dribbling, play-making, creativity, goals and so much more. Our weekly training works on improving each individual player’s footballing ability to help them master 1vs1 game situations and carry the ball with confidence, book a free trial today to improve your dribbling ability.