“He watches my legs,” Jan Oblak tells Sky Sports. “If I make one step, he will see it and shoot to the other side. This is why he is the best. This is why he is so difficult. He does not show it but he is always looking. He is always watching you. His eyes are on the ball but he sees you.
“He sees every thing, I believe.”
Oblak, maybe the most effective goalkeeper in the world, is in the consolation of his Madrid house describing in element the problem of going through Lionel Messi, maybe the most effective footballer there has ever been. There are instances when it’s as if he’s describing the bogeyman himself.
The Atletico Madrid goalkeeper is talking not lengthy after his group’s 1-0 win over Barcelona, their first towards Messi and the remainder in La Liga for over a decade. Oblak gained that one however there have too many defeats, too many late Messi goals, for him to be something aside from humble. “He is still the best player in the world,” he insists.
In all competitions, there have been three clear sheets, together with a 2-0 win in a Champions League quarter-final. “For sure, that was my best memory against him.” But that was one recreation amongst 17. 10 of them have seen a Messi shot discover its method past Oblak.
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“He has scored many goals against me. Too many! But he is a great player, an amazing player, the best player. There are many times that he scores a goal and you have this feeling that you cannot understand how he has scored so easily. You are not even close. Sometimes it feels like he has just passed the ball into the goal, it is not even a shot.”
Oblak is honouring Messi’s achievement, accomplished towards Valladolid on Tuesday, of scoring 644 goals for one membership, breaking the report set by Pele with Santos. Budweiser are marking the historic second with 644 specifically created bottles, individually numbered to characterize every aim, and recognising the position that each single considered one of them has performed in pushing Messi in direction of greatness.
A bit of reluctantly, Oblak has needed to declare accountability for 10 of them. “It is always difficult to talk about because goalkeepers do not like conceding goals.” But it’s revealing.
So a lot has been written about Messi through the years however little of it from the angle of the sufferer. The goalkeeper. The final line of defence. The man out to cease him.
Oblak’s perception means that the competition between the 2 is tactical and technical, bodily and psychological. An examination of thoughts and physique that requires focus always.
Nothing illustrates this as clearly as Messi’s report of getting scored an 86th-minute aim towards Atletico on three totally different events. Just when the job is nearly achieved, it is not.
“It is strange,” says Oblak. “Sometimes you think you are controlling them, you are controlling him. But in a second, he changes the game, he scores a goal, and Barcelona win.
“Sometimes you don’t see him. Maybe you’re pondering it isn’t harmful. And then he scores. This occurred to us final season. You have to be 100 per cent concentrated.”
The tactics against Messi
Diego Simeone demands that concentration from his players and certainly from the man who he has described as the Messi of goalkeeping. “If your coach says that it might solely means good issues,” says Oblak. But does the Atletico boss have particular plans for Messi?
Oblak argues that there’s solely a lot that may be achieved.
“Normally, goalkeepers, we are shouting all the time to help the defenders but I know it is difficult when Messi is on the other side. The defenders do their best but it is difficult to do anything tactically to stop Messi because you never know what he is going to do.
“All you are able to do is play onerous and whenever you see him do not depart him. Try to steal the ball however do not give a foul near the aim as a result of he’s nice at free-kicks. He is nice at every thing.
“If you are too close he will go past you. If you are too far he will shoot. It is not easy to decide how you will defend against him because of his unpredictability. It is impossible.”
Where does Messi shoot?
Oblak returns repeatedly to this situation of unpredictability and with good purpose. The stats recommend Messi places the ball both aspect of the goalkeeper with virtually equal regularity.
His trademark end is to the goalkeeper’s proper – the one which Oblak refers to as a cross – however any try to anticipate such a strike can be punished with a whipped end into the other nook, as he famously did in the ultimate of the 2015 Copa del Rey towards Athletic.
“That is the problem of Messi for goalkeepers,” says Oblak.
“Anticipation depends on the player because there are some players who you can easily predict. There are some players who it is more difficult to predict. Then there is Messi. He is impossible to predict. Not many players have the possibilities that he has on the ball.
“You can by no means predict the place he’s going to shoot and you’ll by no means predict when he’s going to shoot. When it involves Messi, you’ll be able to by no means predict something. Ever.”
When does Messi shoot?
This situation of when Messi will shoot is an added complication. Goalkeepers have to be ready for the early shot which may catch them unawares however they need to additionally respect that he’s able to delaying the shot and even threading a cross via for another person.
“Many times, this is a problem against him. Maybe two or three defenders will go towards him to steal the ball from him but then he will pass to another player and they score.
“You are usually not simply ready for the shot, you’re ready for the cross. You are ready for every kind of issues. Will he shoot? Will he cross? Will he dribble? I repeat, it’s unattainable.”
One-on-one with Messi
Sometimes, when the defence has been breached and all else has failed, the shot is inevitable. One-on-one towards Messi is the worst case state of affairs for the goalkeeper.
Oblak discovered himself in that scenario throughout the first half of Atletico’s latest win over Barcelona, albeit from a slender angle, and managed to maintain out the shot. He has a method.
“If you go down, he will chip you,” he explains. “If you stand up, he will go through your legs. If you go right, he will shoot left. If you go left, he will shoot right. But, in one-on-one situations, the most important thing is to wait until the last second.
“Do not pace issues up. You want to look at the ball and to attend.”
Wait, and hope that Messi makes a mistake?
“Then, you want a whole lot of luck.”
Mental problem of Messi
Acceptance that Messi can’t all the time be managed may appear to be an admission of defeat but it surely is a vital psychological software for a goalkeeper. The ball is in the web and there was nothing that may very well be achieved. Deal with it and transfer on. Control the controllables.
“When you play against the best, you know you are going to have to be at your best to stop them,” provides Oblak. “But you also know that when such a good player is playing against you there is always the possibility that he will score. If he does what he can do, it is impossible.
“If he has his day, if he’s in nice form, it actually doesn’t matter if you’re at 100 per cent. His expertise is an excessive amount of.
“Most of the time, you must accept it is going to depend on him.”
What is Messi’s future?
This newest record-breaking feat comes at a time when Messi’s kind has been beneath better scrutiny than ever earlier than. At the age of 33, these questions are prone to kind a relentless backdrop now. But Messi has the backing of a sure Slovenian, his long-time opponent.
“Some good players from Barcelona went out, some new players came in,” says Oblak. “It is not easy for them, it is not easy for him. But he will show that he is still the best, I am sure. Even if he does not play so good in one or two games, at any moment he could show again that he is the best. He has been showing that every season for the past 15 years.
“Barcelona needs to be very happy he’s there. He has proven this with the titles that he has gained and what number of goals he has scored. Barcelona with out Messi are completely totally different.”
Football with out Messi can be completely totally different too.
“I am sure that he is going to score many more than just 644, even though it is already a lot,” he provides. “It is a really special achievement. I can only say the best words about him because he is the best. He has shown it for so many years and I can only congratulate him, wish him all the best, and hope that he scores many more goals.
“Just not towards me.”
Jan Oblak spoke as a LaLiga ambassador, as a part of Budweiser’s celebration of Lionel Messi’s report breaking 644th aim. For extra data go to youtube.com/Budweiser