A FORMER England star says Bukayo Saka must “cheat” like Lionel Messi in order for the Three Lions to beat France.
Gareth Southgate’s side take on Les Bleus in the World Cup quarter-final on Saturday.
Much of the talk before the bumper showdown has been on how Kyle Walker will nullify the threat from French talisman Kylian Mbappe.
However, Adam Lallana believes Arsenal attacker Saka has just as an important role to play and he believes he can be utilised properly being allowed to “cheat” like Argentinean legend Messi.
Writing in The Times, the ex-England ace said: “If it appears as though he [Messi] is not doing anything and leaving everything to his team-mates, then that ignores the fact he is constantly looking, scanning and taking pictures of the pitch in his head.
“Then, when he does get the ball back, Messi is fresher than anyone else and capable of weaving his magic. He may walk the most, but he is also taking in the most information. He could well be the cleverest player who has ever played the game.
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“Yet when people mention it, the implication tends to be that he is cutting corners with his team, whether that is Argentina or at club level with Paris Saint-Germain.
“You often hear people say, ‘This player cheats out of possession. He doesn’t defend properly.’”
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The 34-year-old continued: “There has been so much focus on how to stop Kylian Mbappe, but England do not want Saka doubling up with right back Kyle Walker every time the French attacker gets the ball.
“If he does that, then Saka is going to be too deep and he is not going to be as effective on counterattacks, which is one of his great strengths.
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“I do not see England being inhibited by their opponents and so Saka will, once again, have a key role to play at both ends of the pitch.
“What has been striking is his calmness in an England shirt. He seems that sort of person anyway. For example, he is not overly aggressive in his body language when he gets fouled.
“But what sticks out is that in the decisive moments, he exudes calm. When you are in the final third, the ball comes to you and you are going to shoot, there can be an element of panic. With Saka, it looks like time stands still for him.”
Lallana added: “When he comes deep to receive the ball, he is not hurried, he doesn’t normally take a heavy touch or run into traffic. He will get his arm up, feel where the defender is and take a touch.
“He must be so strong because he never gets pushed off the ball. Then he releases it when the time is right. I don’t understand how he is like that at 21.”
Saka already has three goals to his name at the World Cup.
He grabbed a brace in the 6-2 opening group game win over Iran before adding another to his tally in the 3-0 triumph over Senegal in the last-16 to set-up the French showndown.
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