If you're a soccer enthusiast or an aspiring player, you've probably marveled at Lionel Messi's mesmerizing dribbling skills on the field. Known for his close ball control, lightning-fast changes in direction and pace, and the ability to leave defenders in awe, Messi's dribbling is something many dreams of emulating. In this comprehensive guide, we'll delve deep into the techniques, drills, and mindset required to dribble like Messi. Let's get started.

Understanding the Art of Dribbling

Before we dive into the specifics of Messi's dribbling style, it's essential to grasp the fundamentals of dribbling in soccer. Dribbling is not merely running with the ball; it's an art that demands precision, balance, and quick decision-making. Here are some key aspects to understand:

Mastering Dribbling Techniques

Dribbling, in its essence, involves using your feet to move the ball while maintaining control. To dribble like Messi, you must focus on the following techniques:

  • Close Ball Control: Messi's dribbling magic begins with his exceptional close ball control. Practice keeping the ball close to your feet, ensuring it doesn't stray too far
  • Change of Pace: Messi's ability to change pace while dribbling is extraordinary. Work on sudden bursts of acceleration and deceleration to catch defenders off guard
  • Body Positioning: Proper body positioning is crucial. Keep your body between the ball and the defender to shield it effectively

Improving Soccer Dribbling

To improve your soccer dribbling skills, consider the following tips:

  • Practice Regularly: Dribbling is a skill that improves with practice. Dedicate time to dribbling drills and exercises regularly
  • Use Both Feet: Train both feet equally to become a more versatile dribbler
  • Focus on Weaknesses: Identify your weak points and work on them. Whether it's dribbling with your weaker foot or in tight spaces, deliberate practice can make a significant difference

By mastering these fundamental dribbling techniques and committing to consistent practice, you'll be on your way to dribbling like Messi. In the next section, we'll break down Messi's dribbling style and explore the specific moves that set him apart.

Messi's Dribbling Style Deconstructed

To truly dribble like Messi, it's essential to dissect his unique style and understand the key moves that make him a dribbling maestro. Let's explore some of Messi's signature dribbling techniques:

Agility and movement

Messi's agility and low center of gravity allow him to move effortlessly. This involves quick touches of the ball with the inside of the foot while navigating through tight spaces. To replicate this:

  • Drill 1: Set up cones in a zigzag pattern and practice weaving through them while maintaining close control of the ball
  • Drill 2: Work on rapid directional changes using the inside and outside of both feet to mimic Messi's agility

The "In-Out" Technique

Messi often employs the "In-Out" technique to deceive defenders. This move involves pushing the ball to one side with the inside of the foot and then quickly pulling it in the opposite direction. To master this:

  • Drill 3: Set up a small square with cones and practice the "In-Out" move to zigzag through the cones, alternating directions
  • Drill 4: Use cones as defenders and practice quick changes in direction to replicate game scenarios

The "Nutmeg" Mastery

Messi is famous for nutmegging opponents, passing the ball through their legs. While this move requires precision, it can be practiced:

  • Drill 5: Partner up and take turns trying to nutmeg each other in a controlled and friendly setting
  • Drill 6: Work on nutmegging your partner in different ways while dribbling 
Read more about how to nutmeg in soccer.

By breaking down and practicing these signature Messi dribbling techniques, you'll be better equipped to emulate his style on the field. In the following sections, we'll explore practical dribbling drills and exercises to refine your skills further and discuss the mental aspects of effective dribbling.

Practical Dribbling Drills and Exercises

To truly master Messi's dribbling style, you need to put in the work on the training ground. Here, we present some practical drills and exercises tailored to enhance your dribbling skills:

Cone Dribbling

Set up a series of cones in a straight line or zigzag pattern and practice dribbling through them. Focus on close control, quick touches, and changes in direction. Vary the distance between cones to challenge yourself.

One-on-One Dribbling

Conduct one-on-one dribbling duels with a teammate or friend. Try to get past each other using Messi's signature moves. This not only improves your dribbling but also hones your ability to read defenders.

Square Dribbling

Create a square with cones and dribble the ball around its perimeter. This exercise enhances your ability to navigate in tight spaces, a hallmark of Messi's dribbling.

Speed and Agility Drills

Incorporate ladder drills, agility cones, and shuttle runs into your training regimen. Messi's dribbling prowess is closely tied to his speed and agility, so these drills are crucial.

In the next section, we'll delve into the mental aspect of effective dribbling, focusing on building soccer IQ and making decisions on the field.

Building Soccer IQ for Effective Dribbling

Mastering Messi's dribbling style goes beyond physical skills; it involves developing a high soccer IQ and making smart decisions during the game. Here's how you can enhance your soccer intelligence for effective dribbling:

Anticipate Defender Movements

Like Messi, learn to anticipate how defenders will react. Watch their body language and positioning to predict their next move. This anticipation gives you the edge when taking on opponents.

Quick Decision-Making

Messi's ability to make rapid decisions while dribbling is unmatched. Work on improving your decision-making skills. Train yourself to assess passing options, decide when to accelerate or change direction, and when to maintain ball possession.

Vision and Awareness

Develop a broader field of vision to spot openings and opportunities. Messi's peripheral vision is exceptional, allowing him to exploit spaces effortlessly. Practice scanning the field and recognizing potential passing lanes.

Learn from Professionals

Study Messi's games and other skilled dribblers. Analyze their movements, decision-making, and positioning. Understanding how top players approach dribbling can significantly enhance your soccer IQ.

In the following section, we'll discuss the importance of speed and agility in effective dribbling, providing training routines to boost these essential attributes.

Speed and Agility Training for Dribbling Success

Messi's dribbling is synonymous with lightning-fast movements and agility. To emulate his style, incorporate the following speed and agility training into your routine:

Sprint Training

Improve your sprinting speed. Work on short, explosive sprints to outpace defenders during dribbling. Focus on acceleration and quick bursts of speed.

Cone Drills

Set up cone drills with quick direction changes. This simulates the unpredictability of real-game scenarios, helping you maneuver through defenders effectively.

Plyometric Exercises

Incorporate plyometric exercises like box jumps and lateral bounds to enhance agility and explosive power. These exercises improve your ability to change direction swiftly.

Ladder Drills

Utilize agility ladders for footwork and coordination training. Ladder drills are excellent for developing the quick foot movements essential for Messi-like dribbling.

By integrating these speed and agility exercises into your training regimen, you'll be better prepared to navigate the pitch with Messi's finesse. In the next section, we'll address common dribbling challenges and provide solutions to overcome them.

Overcoming Common Dribbling Challenges

Dribbling, even with the skills and techniques, can present various challenges. To become a proficient dribbler, you need to address these obstacles head-on. Here are some common issues and their solutions:

Dealing with Tight Spaces

Messi often finds himself in tight spaces. To excel in these situations:

  • Practice dribbling in confined areas to improve your close ball control
  • Work on quick changes of direction to evade tight-marking defenders

Handling Defenders

Defenders will try to dispossess you. To counteract their efforts:

  • Use your body to shield the ball, just as Messi does
  • Develop quick dribbling moves to leave defenders behind

In the subsequent sections, we'll dive deeper into advanced dribbling techniques, study Messi's dribbling moments, and provide answers to frequently asked questions about dribbling like Messi.

Advanced Dribbling Techniques

To truly dribble like Messi, it's essential to go beyond the basics. Messi's dribbling repertoire includes some advanced techniques that set him apart from others. Let's explore these techniques:

The "Double Touch" Move

Messi often surprises defenders by performing a double touch. He uses the inside of one foot to push the ball forward and then quickly taps it with the same foot to change direction. This move can leave defenders bewildered.

  • Drill 7: Practice the double touch by dribbling toward a cone or marker and using this move to change direction. Repeat until it becomes second nature

The "Around the World" Flick

Messi occasionally uses a flick move, where he lifts the ball over a defender's leg and regains possession on the other side. This move demands excellent timing and precision.

  • Drill 8: Work on the "Around the World" flick by practicing it with a partner or using cones as defenders. Focus on accuracy and control.

The "Quick Stop" Maneuver

Messi is known for his ability to come to a sudden stop while dribbling at high speed. This abrupt change in pace often leaves defenders off balance.

  • Drill 9: Practice the quick stop by dribbling at speed and then, using the inside or outside of your foot, come to an immediate stop. Mastering this move takes time but can be incredibly effective

As you incorporate these advanced dribbling techniques into your training, remember that practice and patience are key to mastery.

Learning from Messi's Dribbling Moments

Studying Messi's dribbling moments in actual games can provide invaluable insights. Let's examine a few key aspects to watch for:

Timing and Acceleration

Observe how Messi times his dribbles to exploit gaps in the defense. He often accelerates at just the right moment to beat defenders.

Use of Body Feints

Notice how Messi uses body feints to deceive defenders. He shifts his weight in one direction before darting the other way, leaving defenders lunging in the wrong direction.

Creativity in Tight Spaces

Messi excels in tight spaces. Watch how he utilizes quick dribbling moves and close ball control to navigate through congested areas.

Protecting the Ball

Pay attention to how Messi shields the ball from defenders with his body. This protects possession and prevents defenders from easily dispossessing him.

Analyzing Messi's gameplay and incorporating these elements into your own training can significantly elevate your dribbling skills.


In conclusion, remember that becoming a skilled dribbler like Messi requires dedication, patience, and a continuous desire to improve. Keep practicing, studying the game, and pushing your limits, and you'll be well on your way to dribbling greatness.


What's the best way to start improving my dribbling skills?

Begin with mastering the basics of dribbling, focusing on close control, balance, and quick direction changes. Then, progressively work on advanced techniques and practice regularly.

How can I increase my dribbling speed?

Speed comes with practice. Work on quick touches, acceleration, and directional changes in your dribbling drills. Speed and agility training will also help.

Are there any specific Messi drills I can do?

Yes, you can replicate Messi's style by practicing moves like "In-Out," and "Nutmeg." Incorporate these into your training routine.

How do I improve my decision-making while dribbling?

Improve your soccer IQ by watching games, analyzing plays, and learning from experienced players. Anticipating defender movements and staying aware of your surroundings are essential.

Can I dribble like Messi even if I'm not naturally fast?

Yes, Messi's dribbling style is not solely dependent on speed. Focus on close control, agility, and technique to excel, even if you're not the fastest player on the field.