Europe European Leagues

“He is impossible to predict” – Jan Oblak on how difficult it is playing against Lionel Messi

Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Jan Oblak has more reason than most other footballers to provide an invaluable insight into what an immense pain in the butt it is to face Lionel Messi when he’s on a goal-scoring stampede – and that’s coming direct from one of the best on the planet.

Oblak, known only to a few prior to his emergence at Atletico, quickly developed into one of the world’s finest goalkeepers during his time under Diego Simeone. Ably protected by one of the sturdiest back-lines in world football, Oblak has unquestionably proven himself to be nothing less than world-class with acts of phenomenal goalkeeping.

All that notwithstanding, one spectral figure – drifting scarily in and out of the goalmouth area – who has forced him on numerous occasions to pick the ball out from the back of the net, ten times so far, is Lionel Messi. Then again, Oblak would only be but just one of the vast majority of goalkeepers who have ever faced the Argentine to experience that gut-wrenching premonition of doom as the mercurial striker zips into the goal area.

Speaking to Sky Sports on the night that Messi broke Pele’s record for the most goals scored for a single club, Oblak gave an unprecedented insight into how it is to play in goal with Messi on the pitch:

“It is strange. 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 do not see him. Maybe you are thinking it is not dangerous. And then he scores. This happened to us last season. You need to be 100 per cent concentrated.”

“That is the problem of Messi for goalkeepers,” Oblak continued, on the topic of anticipation.

“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 never predict where he is going to shoot and you can never predict when he is going to shoot. When it comes to Messi, you can never predict anything. Ever.”

This is clearly why it should come as no surprise that he-of-the-diminutive-physical-stature but gargantuan-in-goalscoring-feats has managed to score 644 goals donning just Barcelona colors when even top-flight goalkeepers of Oblak’s caliber find it almost impossible to face him. From the numerous past personal accounts of goalkeepers and defenders alike, Messi sounds like an absolute nightmare to play against.

Love him or loathe him, there will never be another quite like Lionel Messi – certainly not in our lifetimes. A toast to an unbelievable, otherworldly player!

Credit: Football Tribe Malaysia