Former midfielder John Obi Mikel has revealed that Chelsea once came up with a plan for an entire week, which involved only tackling Lionel Messi to stop the star player when he was still playing for Barcelona.
Mikel revealed on Rio Ferdinand Presents FIVE YouTube channel that when Chelsea faced Man Utd, the entire team knew Ashley Cole was capable of dealing with Cristiano Ronaldo. However, if they were to face Barca, Chelsea would have to train harder. “Every time we faced Barca, oh my God, the whole week of training was about Messi,” said the Nigerian midfielder. “Chelsea needed two, three players to mark Messi. You can’t defend one-on-one against Messi. It’s impossible. You’ll die.”
According to Theo Mike, during that time, Barca’s playing style and movements were solely focused on getting the ball to Messi, and the Argentine striker would observe the game. He continued by saying, “Many people say Messi just walks around, but that’s just to find space. Once the ball reaches Messi’s feet, everyone moves and runs, making it difficult to stop.”
In reality, Messi has only won two games, lost six, and drew two out of the ten matches he played against Chelsea while wearing a Barca jersey. One of the most significant defeats was during the Champions League semi-finals in the 2011-2012 season when Barca lost 0-1 at Stamford Bridge and drew 2-2 at Camp Nou with a legendary goal from Fernando Torres in injury time. During this match, Messi even missed a penalty kick with his shot hitting the crossbar.
The Argentine superstar only managed to score three goals and provide three assists against Chelsea since their first encounter in the round of 16 of the 2005-2006 Champions League season. It took him 12 years to finally break through Chelsea’s defense in the round of 16 of the 2017-2018 Champions League, scoring one goal in the first leg draw of 1-1 and two goals in the second leg victory of 3-0.
During his time at Chelsea from 2006-2017, midfielder Obi Mikel revealed the club’s plan to stop Messi was simply to try and foul him. “Our plan was to go for his legs because we couldn’t get close enough to take the ball,” he said. “If you think Messi was there, he was gone. You can see in our games against Barca, me, John Terry, Frank Lampard, all of us were just standing there. That was the only way we could stop Messi.”
When asked about the comparison between Messi and Ronaldo, the 36-year-old former defensive midfielder replied, “I know the comparison between Ronaldo and Messi always causes controversy. I have faced both, and Messi played close to me when Chelsea faced Barca. I will not say that there is a big gap between the two because of what Ronaldo has done, but I really don’t see any comparison at all. I just think Messi comes from a different planet.”
Mikel had been a part of the Chelsea team from 2006 to 2017, where the former Nigerian midfielder won two Premier League titles, four FA Cups, two League Cups, one Community Shield, one Champions League, and one Europa League. After that, he played for less well-known clubs like Tianjin TEDA, Middlesbrough, Trabzonspor, Stoke City, Kuwait SC, and ultimately retired in September 2022.