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Messi reveals how he honed his free-kick technique as he admits to frustration over missed penalties

20:57 SAST 2020/01/15
Lionel Messi Barcelona 2019-20
The Barcelona star has had to change up his approach from set-pieces as his career has progressed

Lionel Messi has revealed how he's changed his free-kick technique to experience more success from dead-ball situations, saying he now studies opposing goalkeepers more than he used to.

The Barcelona star scored six goals from 41 set-piece attempts last season, a respectable return, but has already scored four times from free-kicks in La Liga alone this term.

Messi has been prolific on set-pieces throughout his career, reaching 50 career free-kick goals in October 2019, but explained that his approach has changed as he's gotten older.

"Before, I got comfortable and took them for the sake of it. I tried, of course, to get it over the wall and put it into the net, but I did it without thinking," Messi told  La Liga  on  DAZN .

"That was until I practiced them, picking up habits with my positioning, my steps, how I hit the ball, and trying to use my foot in different ways and seeing how it worked out."

The Argentine has said that one of the biggest changes in his approach to free-kicks is his new habit of studying the opposing goalkeeper, which he did not do earlier in his career.

"Before I didn’t [study the goalkeeper]. I was hindered when it came to have to shoot or a one-on-one situation.

"There were situations in which things you’ve seen come to mind, and it makes you have doubts. Doubts make you go wrong.

"Recently I’ve looked at it again, above all looking at free-kicks to see if there is movement before, if I should take a step or not, how to react, how the wall blocks. Now I study it a little more."

Though Messi said he also studies other free-kick takers, he believes that he is limited in what he is able to learn.

"I watch free-kick takers," the 32-year-old said. "But I think that each player has their own way of taking them and it’s very difficult to copy someone else.

"I think that each player has to do it their way, and try what they feel is best. It’s very difficult to look and copy. You have to train to see what is best for each player."

Messi has been the go-to penalty taker for Barcelona and Argentina during his career and though he's been generally successful, he has experienced some notable misses over the years.

His miss in the 2016 Copa America final caused him to retire from international duty, though he returned to the Argentina national team just weeks later. 

Messi has admitted that those misses from the spot bother him and motivate him to get better from set-pieces.

"I missed a lot of penalties and that bothers me; I want to improve it, and the way to do that is by training and also looking at the opposition – just like I’m sure they study me," Messi said.

"Knowing things about the opposition helps you to gain an advantage.

"It bothers me but doesn’t worry me. I also understand that it’s part of the game, and sometimes it’s even more difficult when you take a lot of them in a row, because everybody studies everything.

"Goalkeepers are much faster than before, much better prepared, have much more strength in their legs, and that means that it is more difficult to take penalties."