Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Jan Oblak has provided insight into just how difficult it is to face Lionel Messi – and that’s coming from one of the best on the planet.
Oblak was known to few prior to his emergence at Atletico, but just as Thibaut Courtois did while on-loan from Chelsea, he developed into one of the world’s finest goalkeepers during his time under Diego Simeone.
Of course, he has been aided by playing behind one of the sturdiest back-lines in world football, but time and time again, Oblak has proven himself to be world-class with acts of phenomenal goalkeeping.
One man who has forced him to pick the ball out the back of the net plenty, ten times in fact, is Lionel Messi – although, the vast majority of goalkeepers who have ever faced the Argentine will say the same.
Speaking to Sky Sports on the night that Messi broke Pele’s record for the most goals scored for a single club, Oblak gave 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.”
It’s no surprise he’s managed to score 644 goals in Barcelona colours when even a goalkeeper of Oblak’s calibre finds it so difficult to face him. Messi sounds like an absolute nightmare to play against.
You can say what you like about Messi, love him or loathe him, there will never be another quite like him – certainly not in our lifetimes. What an unbelievable player.