Messi figures in almost every thought or idea developed by Sabella.
“Football is played to win… Shows are for the cinema, for the theatre… Football is something else. Some people are very confused.”
Carlos Bilardo, who led Argentina to the 1986 World Cup title, has been one of the major influences on the current manager of the national side, Alejandro Sabella. Based on Bilardo’s quote, you would be tempted to tag Sabella as a hardcore pragmatist too. You wouldn’t be inaccurate; after all, he has himself admitted in the past, “I’d be happy to win half-nil!”Own style
Yet, there’s more to Sabella, as revealed in a recent interview with Spanish daily El Pais. While he learnt much from Bilardo, the 59-year-old insisted on developing his own style.
“I also listened to Guardiola in a chat in Argentina and he spoke of the importance of tactics and physical fitness, and what constitutes a group. Pep respects a style of football based on possession and touch. He doesn’t utter niceties. In Argentina, we utter niceties to everyone. We think Guardiola isn’t interested in physical preparation and tactics, but that’s not true.”
While the unlikely amalgamation of Bilardo and Guardiola’s ideas is certain to excite a few, Sabella knows where his heart lies.
“I prefer balance. As a manager, I’m very conservative. In my team, we need one of our forwards to drop deep. Not so much to fill the gaps and receive the ball, but to be in the middle upon loss of possession. It’s important that one of the forwards quickly falls behind the line of the ball.”
Yet, one Argentinean player — Lionel Messi — clearly enjoys more freedom than the others. Sabella says, “He has the freedom to play where he feels the most comfortable. It’s always good for Messi to have the ball because it creates a possibility for success.”
The Barcelona star’s primacy has also ensured that 4-3-3 has become Argentina’s first-choice formation.“I believe this system enhances Messi’s dominance as he possesses more options upon receiving the ball.” One of the players within the Argentina side who helps Messi perform better is Angel di Maria. Sabella, understandably, rates the Real Madrid midfielder high. “He’s fundamental for us since he occupies space very well and has a good understanding with Messi. He usually causes the first break in midfield by tearing away from his marker. Moreover, he recovers ground upon losing possession.”
As one would have noted, Messi figures in almost every thought or idea developed by Sabella.
“He’s influential because his extraordinary skills make him omnipresent. Messi’s leadership stems from his significance as a player, which spreads his influence on the rest. The players consider him a necessity and support him. Messi has increasingly felt recognised within the side.”
(Quotes translated from Spanish)