On the 1st of July Nate Silver’s ESPN statistics and analytics blog FiveThirtyEight published the “Lionel Messi is Impossible” piece. Over social media recently I stated that it’s not the numbers that prove Messi is the best player in the world. What does then? To shorten what is complicated and longwinded reasoning, it comes down to a simple statement: you can just see it. Then a follower reminded me of the aforementioned FiveThirtyEight piece, though he ironically implied that Messi isn’t about stats and figures when the entire premise of the article he cited is stats and figures. Which is precisely the beauty of “Lionel Messi is Impossible”. Even though his genius is exponentially more than the box score, measurables are handy because there are no “yeah, but”s. These are hard, inarguable analytical facts which as I will go through to fortify Messi’s unmatchable grandeur. Now quoting the author Benjamin Morris:
“By now I’ve studied nearly every aspect of Messi’s game, down to a touch-by-touch level: his shooting and scoring production; where he shoots from; how often he sets up his own shots; what kind of kicks he uses to make those shots; his ability to take on defenders; how accurate his passes are; the kind of passes he makes; how often he creates scoring chances; how often those chances lead to goals; even how his defensive play marking compares to other high-volume shooters.
And that’s just the stuff that made it into this article. I arrived at a conclusion that I wasn’t really expecting or prepared for: Lionel Messi is impossible.”
What I particularly loved about this piece was its scope. Morris crunches a ton of numbers to gives us a perfectly fair representative sample that analyses the gauntlet of football. It’s also a handy source to squash any annoying Ronaldo versus Messi debate. So let’s get into it.