Lionel Messi has scored goals in every minute of a game for Barcelona… except the first two.
600 goals and not one has come in the first 120 seconds of game.
Why? Because he’s got more important things to do.
It’s a habit that has become more pronounced in the last two years; Messi shows little interest in the ball during the game’s opening exchanges.
Instead, he prowls about, barely leaving indents on the turf, watching closely for weaknesses and vulnerabilities.
These days, teams of Barcelona’s stature spare no expense when it comes to preparation.
Just look at Marcelo Bielsa’s press conference during the Championship’s ‘spygate’ carry-on for an insight into the analysis that takes place prior to each match in the modern era.
Despite this, Messi still feels the need to take five minutes at the start of each game to make his own assessment of the opposition.
It would be fascinating to know the details of his process.
Like an expert in body language detecting betrayals in micro-movements and half-expressions, Messi spots microscopic loose threads in the defence.
Once the battle plans have been formed and the optimum prey stalked, only then does he go to work.
Doubters (if there are any left) will say only Messi could get credit for doing nothing.
And it’s a fair point.
If any other player was so consistently anonymous in the first five minutes of a game, we would label them a ‘slow starter’ and consider it a weakness in their game.
But Messi is not like other players.
Whatever he does during the first five minutes, it clearly works for him.
Who is anyone to question his methods when the results are so overwhelmingly impressive?
At this stage of his career, Barca’s transcendent No10 has no defined position — he roams without boundaries.
This role means he is free to act upon the strategy devised during his brief scouting mission.
Wide channel between the left-back and the closest centre-back? Yes please.
Defensive midfielder drifting too high? That’ll do.
Space in behind for overlapping Jordi Alba? Not a problem.
Like a boxer finding his range, Messi’s subdued beginning is a necessary precursor.
Trust him to turn inaction into a weapon.