Former AC Milan midfielder Mark van Bommel was never afraid to speak his mind as a player and he’s come out with a blinder of a statement, suggesting Lionel Messi would be a sub-standard player if he played in Italy.
“Three quarters [of the changing room] thought he would score definitely less [than 30 goals a season in Serie A]. And that's me included, yes. Serie A is just a very different approach to football. You can still neutralise sides like in no other league,” van Bommel told Algemeen Dagblad.
So why does he, and others, think this?
Well Serie A football is heavily based around defensive tactics and containing play. The Milan v Barcelona match this week showed that Milan are very effective when they contain influential players.
It’s very clever because rather than trying to mark one person out of a game, which is more common in England, Milan effectively took out the area of the pitch where Barcelona are the most effective.
Serie A sides also tend to play very narrow against sides that like to dominate possession and pass the ball around. This means all 11 players in behind the play across a central area.
The effect this has is that it forces key attacking players, like Messi, to go wider because they are desperate for the ball. Once they’re out wide, they’re easier to man mark or zonal mark in a certain area of space.
The fitness of Serie A teams is also superb which means they can keep containing tactics up for an entire 90 minutes, wearing the opposition down and looking to score goals on the counter attack.
It would be hard for any striker to bag 30 goals a season in Serie A because tactically, teams will always try and find a new and innovative way to keep a key player in the opposition quiet.
Those players like Messi are used to conventional methods of man marking and normal tactics to stop them so that degree of thinking outside the box is very important.
Do you agree or disagree with van Bommel?
image: © jeroen bennink