Lionel Messi has established himself as one of the top football players of our generation and arguably the best of all time. His 5 Ballon D’ors, and 29 golden boots have made him one of the most accomplished not to mention spectacular players the world has ever seen.
Very seldom has a player commanded so much attention from opposing defenses. Managers and teams are often forced to devise game plans aiming to contain the prolific Argentinian number 10. They rarely work.
But thanks to a Chelsea scouting report from back in 2006 that leaked recently, it transpires that even as an 18 year old Messi was already a force of nature and Mourihno, had devised strategies he hoped would neutralise the budding star.
The notes , were made in preparation for the match between Chelsea and Barcelona in the knock out stages of the champions league.
The in depth analysis , of many aspects of the Barcelona team , at the time coached by Frank Rijkaard,provides us with a fascinating insight into one of the great footballing mind’s approach to football, and informative assessments of a few legends of the times abilities and weaknesses.
Indeed players such as Puyol the legendary Barcelona defender was deemed having ‘bad positional sense (comes to the midfield with striker) and bad leadership of defence (wants to do off-side when it is not possible)’ on top of being ‘…very emotional. Gets crazy with the referee in fouls against him and goes mad in provocations.’
Deco was seen as able to ‘dictate pressure’ but also ‘spot a hesitation or a mistake from the oppponent’ that he could then capitalise on.
Rohanldihno one of the most successful and highly rated players at the time was singled out by Mourihno for being ‘very poor defensive transition and defensive work’ flagging these deficiencies as weaknesses to ‘exploit’.
There is also a great deal of appreciation for Eto’ the Cameroonian legend and striker who would join him in inter and together would complete a historic treble of ‘Serie A’, Coppa Italia and the UEFA Champions league. The scouting profile puts emphasis on his work rate , noting that he ‘’chases, believes and keeps high intensity rhythm throughout all game’. He is also noted for being ‘defensively very strong.’ and for the fact he ‘works hard in opp. 1st phase trying to force mistakes or back passes to GK.’ His work rate , footballing IQ and defensive discipline no doubt being something which would catch the eye of the Portugese manager who would make Eto an integral part of his trebble winning team in Italy.
What may stand out the most however is Mourihno’s respect for Lionel Messi’s ability even as an 18 year old. In the notes the young Argentinian is described as ‘amazing 1vs 1’ to the point where the directive is to -whenever possible- foul him ‘outside the box and as early as possible’. The notes go so far as to say Barcelona are very dependent on ‘Messi and Ronaldihno’, quite a feat for an 18 year old and no doubt a sign of what Messi would become.
There is also mention of Messi as being ‘very left footed,’ something which not stopped him from being one of the most dominant and impactful players the game has seen and which we now know is akin to saying Shaquille Oneil could only turn to his left on his jump hooks or Deontay Wilder depended too much on his right hand (or Serena Williams on her two-handed backhand) : it didn’t really matter if they had one move signature move when they could perform it at will.
The notes remain interesting insights into the world of football management and in particular the meticulous game preparations that Mourihno has been famous for.
Unfortunately , the Mourihno managed Chelsea side would go on to lose the two legs to a Barcelona the first a 1-1 draw at the Camp Nou, and then a 2-1 loss at Stamford Bridge. side which would be eliminated in the round of 16.
Mourihno of course would go on to coach Inter Milan, Real Madrid , Chelsea and Manchester United earning an impressive haul of titles along the way.