If you’ve watched Lionel Messi play soccer, two things stand out: his goal-scoring prowess and that he spends most of the game walking.
Former MLS and U.S. men’s national team player, Alexi Lalas pointed out the latter when Inter Miami CF coach Tata Martino mentioned Messi possibly needing rest.
“Load management? Messi walks around most of the game!” Lalas wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.
Why does Messi walk so much?
Messi himself hasn’t commented on his strategy of walking, but one of his former coaches has given an explanation.
“He’s not running, but he’s always watching what happens,” Pep Guardiola, Messi’s former Barcelona coach, said in the “This Is Football” documentary, per The Athletic. “He smells the weak points in the back four. After five, 10 minutes he has a map in his eyes, in his brain, to know exactly where is the space and what is the panorama.”
The Athletic’s John Muller took a look at how Messi’s walking helped Argentina win the World Cup. Muller pointed out that walking allows Messi to create space for his teammates by drawing the attention of defenders and center backs.
When Messi suddenly starts moving after being stationary while Argentina has the ball, he forces the opposing team to make a decision: follow him or let him wander free.
“While everybody else runs one way, take a step the other way and watch spaces open up,” he wrote. “If a centre-back doesn’t stay with him, Messi will be free to receive the ball and lead the counter-attack with runners in front of him. But if a centre-back does stay with him, that’s one less defender for the runners to deal with.”
Another theory is that he’s conserving energy. Spending most of the game walking, allows the soccer legend to play the entire game.
During Argentina’s World Cup match against Saudi Arabia, Messi covered the most distance walking — 4,625 meters, which equates to just under three miles — than any other player in any other group stage match, The Athletic reported.
The walking habit could be what has allowed Messi to play every minute in eight of the nine games he’s played for Miami. He has logged 600 minutes in August, which is the most for any month in the last two years of his career, The Athletic reported.