Lionel Messi is regarded as one of the best soccer players ever to play the game. He is regarded as such because of his ability to beat defenders by explosively changing directions and keeping the ball very close to his body.
This is a major reason why Messi is regarded as one of the best soccer players of his generation.
If you want to be able to beat defenders by dribbling as Messi does, you have to ensure that you have solid fundamental dribbling skills and also maneuvers that Messi makes use of.
Beating defenders does not only mean passing through the gaps of the defender or pushing the ball forward, or taking a shot at the goal as creatively and effectively as possible.
As a player, when a defender marks you, you have to think of ways to beat him. Such methods could include outrunning him with the ball at your feet or cutting him off guard through various skills like step-overs, body feints, and other skills.
As a striker, you also have to use advanced skills as Messi does. Though dribbling might be seen by many as a show, it is one of the main methods to beat a defender.
As a striker, your responsibility is to score goals, and at times, you might be saddled with the choice of risking the ball and dribbling or playing it safe.
Over time, Lionel Messi has shown to the world that it is quite easy to beat defenders. Not just any defenders but some of the great defenders have suffered humiliating defeats at his hands. The dribbling skills of Messi make one think of Diego Maradona.
- How to beat a defender in soccer like MESSI?
- Learn Skills or moves like Lionel Messi
- Fake Out the Defender
- Strength and Speed
- Make Use of Your Hips
- Knowing When to Dribble
- Read the Defender
- Build Your Fundamentals
How to beat a defender in soccer like MESSI?
As an attacker, you have to be quick-footed and be able to leave defenders behind if you want to beat defenders. These skills can be learned as a player, but you need to have confidence in yourself.
Lionel Messi is known to be an exceptional and capable player because of his incredible goals, assists, and precise dribbles. He is one of the best that can be found in soccer.
Lionel Messi is known for his dribbling skills which makes him stand out from the crowd, and one of them is the proper positioning of his foot when he gets the ball.
Lionel Messi is known to aim his toe towards the ground, while other players are known to usually aim their toes towards the direction they intend to shoot in or towards the goalkeeper. Secondly, Messi is known to touch the ball when the ball is aligned to the center of his body.
Dribbling and beating defenders like Messi cannot be done in a single day. It would be best if you had a strong dedication and the willpower to train and exercise. Messi’s achievements are a product of his more than a decade of training with commitment and practice.
Over time Messi has sacrificed various things to accomplish his level of uniqueness. In an interview conducted on Messi, he stated that he usually starts early and stays late to practice every day and for more than a decade.
He further stated that it took him 17 years and more than 114 days to become the great player we know him as.
Therefore if you want to beat defenders like Messi through dribbling or other methods, you have to practice very hard.
Messi is known to be a master dribbler, and many soccer players watch his videos to learn from him. So the possibility of learning something from watching Lionel Messi is huge.
To beat defenders, you need skills, and these skills require constant practice and training. Unfortunately, though some soccer players focus on possession and passing, they tend to forget that they need to train their ability to beat or dribble past defenders.
Below are some of the methods that will teach you how to beat a defender like Messi while at the same time helping you to improve your abilities and ensure that you can also create chances for your teammates to score goals.
Learn Skills or moves like Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi is known for having a plethora of skills that he uses to dribble past and beat defenders. However, if you want to beat defenders like the way Messi does, you need a lot of skills and moves that can be used to beat defenders and keep them hanging.
Below are some of the moves and skills that Lionel Messi uses, which you can also use to beat defenders.
The Matthew’s Move
Matthew’s move was created by Stanley Mathew, England’s world cup star. Though Stanley Matthews created this move, Lionel Messi has made this move one of his signature moves.
Though Matthew’s move is simple, it usually takes time to practice it. Matthew’s move is made by dribbling the ball with an instep, and then you fake moving in a direction to make the defender move in another direction.
After this is done, you then quickly plant your standing feet then use the outside part of your dribbling foot to move the ball in the opposite direction while moving around the defender.
The sharp change of direction that usually accompanies this move is capable of taking the defender off guard, and the defender would be unable to catch up with you.
The Stop and Go
Another move is the stop and go. Lionel Messi usually makes use of this move to get past defenders in the 18-yard box.
The step-and-go move is an easy move to perform. But, though easy, it has proven to be very effective for its ability to leave defenders hanging and unconscious of what to do.
The stop-and-go move can be performed in various ways, but it is commonly used when defenders are close to the players.
To perform the stop and go move, you first slow down while running; this will ensure that the defender slows down, then you push the ball forward quickly, getting a step on the defender.
While performing the stop and go, ensure that you make use of your eyes and body to throw off the defender. This will lead the defenders to think that you are finished dribbling and are about to pass the ball.
The stop-and-go move can be seen in the 104th second of this video as Messi used the skill to beat former Manchester United player, Paul Scholes.
The Inside Hook Turn
The inside hook turn is another move or skill that you can make use of to beat defenders. Again, a side-to-side space is created for the player to use when this move is performed.
The hook turn can be completed when you dribble the ball in a direction, then place your foot around the ball, then drag it to the front of the defender.
The inside hook turn is capable of getting you past and around off-balance defenders.
The Step Over
The stepover is another move that Messi uses to beat defenders. The stepover works perfectly for defenders that are aggressive and is also capable of working against persuasive defenders when you get to them closely.
The stepover move is performed by moving a single foot around the ball in a running motion, and then the ball is quickly pushed towards the opposite direction with the other foot.
The stepover move ensures that the defender leans his body towards a direction while you run past them in the other direction.
Side Tap With the change of direction
Another way to get past defenders is to first tap the ball softly to a side then use a fast change of direction to get past the defender. After getting a few feet from the defender, use your outside foot to tap the ball at a 45-degree angle away from the defender.
Now, you accelerate while ensuring that the ball is close to you so another defender won’t take it. When you are very close to the defender, the move can be modified by tapping away the ball at a 90-degree angle.
Dodge the defender while accelerating towards the goal. You can perform another variation of this by opening your hips to the side, then using the inside part of your foot to curl the ball across your body while accelerating in the opposite direction.
This move can be turned to the La Croqueta when you tap the ball across your body using the inside of a single foot to the other foot. The move would look like you are passing to yourself, then you flick the ball to the side then accelerate.
Feints are similar to stepovers since you fake a move in a direction while moving the ball in a different direction. One of the differences between feints and stepovers is that faints are done in a single motion.
Feints aim to quickly drop your shoulders so that the defender would react while you run in another direction.
You could, for example, drop your left shoulder, whisking your movement to the left while you then quickly turn to the right, leaving the defender behind you.
Shoulder feints are used to get defenders off balance. For example, with the ball on your feet, while dribbling the defender, you can dip or drop your shoulder so it will look like moving one way, then you plant your feet while moving the ball in the opposite direction.
You can make use of shoulder feints to quickly move past defenders, then pass towards your teammates or move towards the goal.
Accelerating past Defenders
Another way of beating defenders is to accelerate past them using quick speed change quickly. This move is only effective when it is followed by a burst of speed around the defender into space.
When you accelerate, the defender would not be able to recover or catch up with you after getting past them.
Work on your Finishers
Lionel Messi is a great finisher; he has a record of scoring three out of every five finishing chances. You have to be able to finish the ball perfectly when you have dribbled past a defender.
It would be best if you worked on your finishing moves to get the best of these skills or moves. Then, when you are capable of beating defenders accurately, you would be able to create a lot of goal-scoring opportunities.
Fake Out the Defender
Another way to beat defenders like Messi does or get past defenders is to perform fake outs. Messi commonly uses this method to get past defenders.
The fakeout is a popular move that Messi and other players use to get past defenders.
Explained below are some of the best ways that you can perform fakeouts to beat defenders or get past defenders.
Search for Space
You can fake out defenders by ensuring that your eyes are kept up. Keeping your eyes up gives you the space to make moves around the defender.
Like Messi’s hips, which tell no lies, you have to intently look at the defender to know their direction that you wish to turn to and then predict their next move.
Messi, for instance, is often tackled on his left by defenders because they know that he has a stronger left foot. He often makes use of this misconception to his advantage by using his other foot to find spaces.
Finding spaces is to be able to predict the movements of your opponents. Then, you can acquire the defender’s protection after taking the misconception into place and stepping the other way that you are supposed to go.
While finding spaces, ensure that the ball is controlled with your foot towards the direction that you intend to go since you would move forward with your other foot.
Messi is capable of moving so quickly that defenders are rendered speechless, which is why it is very effective against defenders.
When Messi fakes out a defender, he makes some little bluffs and then dribbles in the opposite direction with the outside of his other foot.
Increasing your Speed while Switching Directions
You can perform fakeouts to beat defenders by running past the defenders when you flick the ball towards the direction you wish to go towards, then quickly perform any of the dribbling skills you have practiced.
You must not over speed to find spaces between defenders. You could perform a little smart dribble that can catch the defender off guard and get him out of his position. When this is performed well, the defender will not be able to catch up to you.
Slowly Get to the Defender
To beat defenders, you have to get to the defender slowly. Messi, for example, usually gets very close to the defender, then he would force the defender to show a flaw which he exploits then gets past the defender.
Messi, unlike Cristiano Ronaldo, is not a master of the stepover or a fantastic dribble like Ronaldinho. Instead, Messi makes use of small changes in his direction accompanied with ball control to perform his insane skills.
Shielding the Ball
You can perform fakeouts if you can properly use your body to shield the ball with your body. Your body should be placed between the defenders close to you and then pass that you are about to receive.
Your back or hip should be turned to the defense while trying as much as you can to shield the ball from the defender. Messi is usually seen to often have his eyes up while looking at the defenders through his shoulders. This is usually done as soon as he gets the ball.
Consistently Keeping the Ball Very close
As a necessity, every player can keep the ball very close to their body when they move. Messi and other great dribblers are usually seen to have the ball close to them like it was glued to their foot.
As a soccer player, in order to improve your dribbling skills and abilities to beat defenders, you have to train or practice with cones as fast as possible. In addition, you have to ensure that the ball is properly controlled and kept near you while working around the cones.
Though this move looks quite easy, it is quite a challenging feat to keep the ball close to you while moving and even more so when performing it while dashing at full speed.
You have to develop this skill step by step while developing your dribbling ability and your speed. Your focus should be on ball control and touches. It would take some time to perfect this skill. Therefore you have to practice harder.
Use your other foot to accept passes
Whenever you receive a pass from your teammates, make use of your feet that are farther from the defender to trap the ball, this would ensure that the defender would not take the ball.
Making use of the farthest feet ensures that you can quickly perform some skills.
Messi gets as close to the defense as possible while ensuring that the ball is around his center of gravity and near him.
He ensures that his opponents cannot disrupt his pace by receiving the pass with his right foot.
When you receive the ball, tap it with your farthest feet, then use the feet to create more space to perform any trick or skill.
Bringing the Defenders In
Another way of performing fakeout is by bringing the defenders in then moving in the opposite direction that you intend to go.
One of Messi’s signature moves is to bring the defense in, and he does it pretty quickly, such that it is very effective. To fake out defenders, Messi usually performs a side step in a fake direction with feints; then, he dribbles to the opposite direction with the outside of his foot.
Setting Up Low Gravity
Most have claimed that Messi is quick on his feet and a good dribbler because of his height. However, though his height is an advantage, it is not the full focus.
Tall players are capable of dribbling, but what Messi does is that he usually takes more steps than other dribblers. This ensures that he keeps the ball very close at all times and makes short and small strides while moving.
Tall players can also do something similar though it takes quite a bit of practice since you’ll have to focus on crouching slightly and be over the ball.
Strength and Speed
Another method of beating defenders or getting past defenders is through strength and speed. Dribbling while running usually leads to instability. Ball control and your pace would often come into contact.
But Messi, due to his brilliance, is capable of bending this rule of nature. You have to balance your strength, and weight like Messi does, then counter the opponent’s force while dribbling.
Keep the ball in your possession with your strength and frequent touches while running at high speeds.
Messi is capable of employing his strength to match the defender’s shoulder to shoulder while maintaining stability. You have to learn to make use of your body’s strength, weight, and speed to your advantage. This is a necessary factor to be able to beat defenders as Messi does.
Make Use of Your Hips
Using your hips is another way that allows players to beat defenders. Messi does this a lot. However, a lot of players usually do not make use of their hips to beat defenders.
Messi is capable of using his hips to make feints and steps that put defenders off balance. Sometimes he does not even need to move his body or move the ball.
Your ability to beat defenders or get past defenders would increase when you learn to make use of your hips for feints.
You could make use of a mirror to practice moving your hips, then, after getting the hang of it, move them in the direction where you touch the ball.
You can, for example, move your hips to your right when making use of outside foot touches to move the ball to the right.
After mastering the hip movement, you can then begin to use it to make fakeouts and feints. You can move your hips to pretend to move in a direction. For example, you can move your left hip while performing a stepover with your left foot.
Knowing When to Dribble
Another way to beat defenders or get past them is to know the right idea to dribble. But, again, this has a lot to do with a player’s technical ability and the player’s confidence.
The situation usually determines the right moment. For example, when dribbling past the last defender, you might decide to dribble or not based on your confidence level. Usually, between 3-4 feet of the defender is a good time to dribble, just like Messi does.
Messi ensures that he gets very close to the defender before he performs any dribbling skill. This distance ensures that the ball is close enough for the defender to struggle to turn or catch up with you before you pass or shoot.
Read the Defender
Another way to beat defenders or get past defenders is usually based on your ability to read the defender. Before getting to a defender, ensure that you know how the defender would react towards you.
Defenders are different; some are passive while some are aggressive, so you have to know some of the common movements they make to perfectly time your moves against them.
For passive defenders who usually wait for the ball to come to them, the ball has to be quickly pushed forward while waiting for the defender to show some flaws which you can exploit with your moves.
When you face an aggressive defender, you can easily predict them since they have quite predictable movements. For example, when facing an aggressive defender inside the 10 yards box, the defender more often than not comes out to meet you instead of allowing you to get close.
In such a case, you can perform fake outs or feints that would enable you to get past them quickly if only a single defender is in front of you.
Build Your Fundamentals
Another way to get past defenders is to ensure that your fundamentals are solid. Solid foundations or fundamentals are a necessary key to getting past or beating a defender.
The basic skills of soccer need to be practiced continuously to be perfect in them, so you can outrun and beat defenders.
Below, you will find some methods that would enable you to build up your fundamentals.
Lionel Messi makes use of speed to beat defenders and get past defenders in his playstyle; as a result, he can keep the ball very close to him at very fast speeds.
Work on your speeds through running with the ball. Ensure you go as fast as you can while making a lot of touches on the ball. Over time increase your speed while running from one end of the field to the other end.
You can perform explosive drills, which would keep you running back and forth across the field.
Keeping Your Arms out
When Lionel Messi dribbles players, his arms are usually seen to be kept out. So keep your arms bent slightly while putting the arms out of your body.
This ensures that your body balance is maintained when changing directions and making quick transitions. It keeps you in the best position.
Messi has, in an interview, stated that to become a great player like him, you have to love the game and play soccer continuously.
Messi stated that right from age 3, he played soccer all day long. He practiced continuously while training his skill set. So if you want to beat defenders just like Messi does, you have to do the same; practice continuously.
To better beat or get past defenders, you have to have good vision accompanied by good ball control.
Try to practice keeping your head up while looking at the actions that happen around you. Your focus should be on the defender’s hip to anticipate their next move and not on the ball.
Keeping your eyes on the defender’s hips helps you anticipate their next move and even helps you keep them off balance. You could even use their hips to perform killer moves like the nutmeg and earn cheers from the crowd.
Messi is a world-class player capable of beating defenders, but he does not only make use of every flashy move out there.
Messi excels at changing his speeds, performing simple moves, running past defenders, and going from slow to dust and vice versa.
When you beat defenders, you open up the field and create opportunities for your teammates and for you to pass, cross or shoot at the goal.
To become valuable to your team, you have to be able to beat defenders continuously. Following the steps shown above can make you similar to Messi, who is a threat to every defender and constantly creates opportunities.
Hi there, I’m Jay.
Soccer is everything in my life! My friends and I have created this blog with all our enthusiasm, passion, and understanding after years of playing pro soccer. Hope you will enjoy it!