LIONEL MESSI has put together one of the greatest footballing careers ever seen – thanks to both his natural talent and his fitness regime.
As a sucker for fizzy drinks, pizza and chocolate in his younger years, the Barcelona icon has worked hard at achieving the perfect balance in his diet and workouts.
During the coronavirus pandemic, Messi was seen working out in his home gym adorned with pictures of his idol, Muhammad Ali.
And like the boxing legend did, the Argentine knows where best to focus his energies.
The dazzling dribbles that he pulls off on a regular basis are no coincidence.
With his small frame and low centre of gravity, he is perfectly built for pulling off sudden lateral movements, darting in between defenders, and building up a head of speed over a tiny amount of ground.
But his training regime is also key, with lunges, skips, accelerations, sprints over hurdles and squats all utilised as a way of building leg muscle and improving dexterity.
Messi has even been said to stretch for an hour a day to achieve the flexibility required for his elastic moves.
Aiding that are training drills designed to enhance quick thinking and technique.
Johan Cruyff famously introduced the rondo session to Barcelona, effectively a big game of piggy in the middle, and Pep Guardiola was also a big fan.
Former Blaugrana defender Thomas Vermaelen explained in a 2016 interview with the Telegraph: “We always do it at the start of training.
“It doesn’t only warm you up but it’s a training session in itself, you try to keep the ball in possession and make the guys in the middle do the pressing.
“We did it sometimes at Arsenal but not a lot of clubs do it like we do it here. It’s a tradition. Even if we have a game in the evening, we come here in the morning and do a rondo.”
WEIGHT OFF HIS MIND
Hitting the gym is also considered key aspect to many stars’ success, particularly for Cristiano Ronaldo.
And yet Messi has been described as someone who is not overly concerned with bulking up, having all his life made his diminutive frame an advantage rather than a disadvantage.
Carlos Tevez once remarked that he “never saw” his Argentina colleague in the gym during national team meets – because it was “all natural”.
Likeise, Deco described to ESPN in 2015 that Messi: “Takes care of himself like a normal athlete.”
Some players save themselves for a Saturday afternoon, but not Messi.
Several ex-teammates have spoken about the amazing moves the striker deals out on the training ground to keep himself sharp.
Lucas Digne regularly faced up to the superstar, and later told Daily Star: “When you train against the best player in the world you learn a lot because you are playing against the best.
“You need to move fast, do everything fast and better, you can’t miss something because if you do it’s a goal even if it’s only training.
“He is playing on another planet. He sees everything before everyone else, he does everything fast, every time he makes a good decision, he’s the best.”
Another ex-Barcelona man now at Everton, Andre Gomes, remared: “In training it is a show, because every day he can invent something new.
“You think you’re used to it, but there is always one day you go to the dressing room surprised by something he has done.”
HIS BEST MATE
Now aged 32, Messi must look after his body more than ever when it comes to diet.
One thing fans regularly see the South American indulge in is mate tea.
Incredibly popular among footballers, the high-caffeine drink is credited with having weight-loss benefits and is packed full of antioxidants, plus vitamins B and C.
Famously, the Barcelona ace ditched pizza as he knuckled down to prolong his career.
Barbecued meats and the popular Argentine fried beef dish Milanesa became much more rare after he began working with nutritionist Giuliano Poser.
A Bach flower remedy to reduce anxiety was introduced along with grains, fresh fruit and veg, and good quality olive oil.
In training it is a show, because every day he can invent something new.”
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Poser told Mundo Deportivo in 2016: “Very good are nuts and seeds.
“[Sugar] is the worst thing for the muscles. The farther he stays away from sugars, the better.
“Refined flours are also a big problem as these days, it’s difficult to find uncontaminated wheat.”
The Italian specialist even noted that Messi’s favourites were ingrained in him from his upbringing, with meat less useful for prolonged periods of exercise.
Poser added: “The amount of meat normally eaten by Argentinians and Uruguayans is too much, as it is difficult to digest.”