Below you can have a look at the skill we will try to break down. This is Lionel Messi’s ‘signature’ move, which has seen him embarrass some of the world’s top performers over the years. Watch the video, read our tips and try it yourself!
- Slow the game down to your pace - Did your coach ever use the phrase ‘Stop still with the ball, and the game stops still with you’? This is the first step to ‘setting up’ your defender to beat them. As shown by Messi, this skill is most useful in tight situations, maybe out wide (where your boundaries are a bit clearer). This is your moment to slow the game down and set your mind to the skill ahead. You will obviously need to perfect this skill hundreds of times unopposed or passively opposed in practice before you go whipping it out in games, however when that time comes, slowing the game down is step 1.
- Stand your opponent up - Get your opponent to the point where they are moving with your movements, following your steps and your eyes. With you dictating the duel, you then become the master of their next few steps, which is crucial if you are to beat them with this piece of skill. In the examples from the Messi video, his most effective executions come when the defender is unbalanced - so either standing upright (like Nani), or jockeying backwards (like Scholes, or the RM full back). Ensure that their body positioning does not favour them in this situation!
- Sell the dummy - Motion to move the ball with the outside of your foot to the left (the reality is you will move it with the inside of your foot to the right). A sharp outwards turn of the foot and movement towards the ball tells your defender you are using the outside of the foot to knock the ball past them infield. Sell this movement quickly and convincingly without giving the defender time to think (they now only have time to react), which leads you to the next phase of stepping over the ball instead of touching it, dropping your shoulder and shifting in the other direction.
- Hop the standing foot - You may need to watch the video a few times to catch this subtlety. One of the most important details of this skill is the very slight hop on the standing foot to complete your sell of the dummy. It allows you to shift your weight effectively. Your standing foot should be facing the defender during your dummy. As this foot comes off the ground, combined with the drop of the shoulder, the movement of your playing foot and previous directional movement of the ball, the defender is by now in full belief that you are going to the left - there are too many cues selling it for him/her! So as your defender is anticipating your shift to the left, you use your millisecond of standing foot off the ground to shift your weight and hip placement into the opposite direction, placing your foot back down but this time to the right, taking the ball away from them with the inside of your playing foot.
- Be quick! - From a coaching perspective, one thing that is constantly drilled into young players performing new skills, is the moment at which they perceive their skill to be complete. Does it end after the step-over or the turn? Certainly not. Upon performing a skill effectively, it is only complete if you can accelerate into space away from your opponent. A very obvious point for many, but it ensures for you and your team mates that the skill has a purpose, and has effectively allowed you defeat your opponent. Notice there is no shortage of pace from Messi escaping his man in that department - he’s worked hard for that too!
Good luck ballers! We would love to hear back with footage of your attempts.