Spanish football legend Xabi Alonso has opened up on how incredibly deadly Lionel Messi was when he was deployed in a 'false nine' role by FC Barcelona and revealed how Real Madrid eventually tried to contain him in El Clasico clashes.
Alonso spent five years at Los Blancos and had to manage a herculean task in curbing the Argentine superstar's threat in the biggest game on the planet.
He made an appearance on The Coaches' Voice and revealed why the 32-year-old Barcelona captain was so effective in that position. Alonso explained, "He (Messi) used to be in this, like, false nine -- you know, it's been told so much about the false nine."
The former Liverpool midfielder continued, "But Xavi used to come here to get the ball and when I used to go to press him -- this space -- Messi came from the number nine position to this position behind me."
Alonso further stated, "And they used to do two against one against me, and [Sergio] Ramos came to press Messi where this big space used to be created and when Messi got [the ball] he used to play for [David] Villa or for Pedro in that position."
Alonso then revealed that Madrid eventually started to adapt to Barcelona's tactics under Pep Guardiola and found the best way to contain Messi on the pitch.
He concluded by revealing his team's strategy to curb Messi's threat by claiming, "And that's... when we started controlling better this, I think that Ramos used to say, 'Xabi, Messi's coming.' And I didn't go to press Xavi where I would stay with Messi. They used to have more control, but they were not that dangerous. When we controlled a little better that situation, I think that we were closer to compete with them."