Cripple Messi
Messi Ronaldo Sport

Should teams field a ‘cripple Messi’ player?

So the idea is hire a guy for one game to turn out for your team and as soon as he humanly can, commit a dangerous, career-threatening foul against Lionel Messi or any other star opposing player, knowing he’ll be immediately red-carded but will take Messi out of the game too. Worth doing? I put it to you that it is. 

by Stacey’s Mom. 

Cripple Messi. Take a breath. Think about it. The idea would go like this: you’re an average team in a crunch match with Barcelona. You’ve got a industrious and plucky squad a little wanting in the talent department. You’re Alaves or Celta Vigo, or some team from the segunda. Ask yourself this, even with Suarez and Neymar, is Barcelona remotely the same team without Messi? Not remotely?
So how about this idea: prior to the game you hire some non-league lowlife, maybe someone with a little jail time behind them, someone with zero career prospects and precious little ambition as a coach, and you pay them one week’s salary to just lurk around your own box, like any common defender. As soon as Messi gets anywhere near this guy, he charges and then lunges as hard as he can, preferably for the knees but the ankles or hips could suffice, taking Messi immediately out of the game. Ok, our guy gets red carded right away, but suddenly your odds look a fair degree better, because you’ve prepped a ten man strategy.  Your once-off thug immediately retires from football wealthier than he’d ever dreamt.  Then you hire another guy for the next round when you’re playing Real Madrid or Man Utd or whoever.

What does your team lose doing this?
One player for most of the game. You drop to ten men, given, but you’ve actually shortened your odds because the gulf between you and the opposition is based on technical ability more then anything. They’ll bring n another good player, but not another Messi, or Ibrahimovic or Lewandowski.  In fact, arguably, doing this twice might even shorten your odds further despite your dropping to nine players.

Where would it lead though?
This is worth thinking out. If teams start fielding “hunters” just to foul the talent off the pitch, to cripple Messi, it stands to reason a team with a talented player will field a “bouncer” to defend that talent at all costs. Likely this will involve spotting the opposition ‘hunter’ as fast as possible and either taking him out of the game first or buffeting his would-be attacks physically. Essentially this would take two players out of the game tactically so the first team would need to deploy a ‘decoy-hunter’ to throw their ‘bouncer’ off the scent, maybe a second non-leaguer or someone close to retirement anyway, to lurk around the box.  But if the original team’s ‘bouncer’ fouls off the true ‘hunter’ and gets sent off, we’re back to square one. Hell, it needn’t even just be a designated thug. There’s an argument that there are times when taking the guy out is the absolute right thing to do. 93rd minute, Champions League final and your side is somehow in the lead and de Bruyne is through on your goal just outside the box. Your keeper is tired, hes flaky. You could just bury those studs into de Bruyn’s knees, get sent off and watch their free kick sail wide. We all know what Roy Keane would do.

Would this improve the game?
Massively.  Imagine this drama enfolding while teams are trying to score and defend.  Imagine the hush that would fall over a crowd as Eden Hazard received the ball approaching the opposition box, triggering some random Phil Mitchell lookalike in a Leicester shirt for the day to come charging at him with studs showing, N’golo Kante desperately running to make the block and looking around to see if this is the decoy or not. The drama is multiplied many times over. Also, it could have a long term effect on tactics. Do I field Messi right from the start. Do I wait till their ‘hunter’ has been taken out by our ‘bouncer’? Do I look at their team sheet and if I see a name I don’t recognise elect not to field Messi at all for fear of his career? After all maybe it’s just the quarter final.

What if Barcelona themselves started doing this against lesser opposition, knowing even if they dropped to nine men they’d still vastly dominate with their forwards?

Football is changed forever when you cripple Messi, it’s brought into a whole new realm.

Should teams field a ‘red-card’ player just to get rid of opposition talent?

YES
NO

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Image courtesy: MyCanon

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