Zonal defending has forced man-marking into a thing of the past as a team tactic, but brought a lot of attention in the media this week with talk about Inter potentially deploying a man-marker against Argentine Lionel Messi in the UEFA Champions League match-up between Inter Milan and Barcelona.
Gabriele Marcotti of the Times talks to former Italian defensive stopper Claudio Gentile about the prospects of marking Messi, as well as the lost art of man-marking.
Didn't hear it myself, but I was told that after Messi's four goals against Arsenal a pundit suggested that the little Argentinian could be neutralized by specialist man-marking, with someone athletic and quick like a young Martin Keown being suited for the job. Not sure about Keown, but Claudio Gentile, the former Italy defender (who man-marked Diego Maradona, by hook or by crook, out of a match in 1982) does believe that individual attention could work against Messi.
"You'd need somebody quick and athletic who was good at reading the game and could ensure he never got the ball," Gentile said in an interview with Gazzetta dello Sport. "And you'd need someone who was not going to get beat in a one-on-one if Messi does receive the ball and turns successfully. But the problem is that I don't know that there is anyone today who fits the bill. Not because today's defenders are poor, but simply because man-marking is a lost art in today's game. Everybody plays zone, nobody thinks in terms of individual battles anymore."He's right. Man-marking has its flaws, hence it's almost nonexistent in the game today. But its demise was also something of a vicious cycle: the fewer the players who knew how to do it correctly, the fewer the occasions in which it was used and, of course, the fewer the chances for someone to learn how to do it. And that's kind of a shame...