Mister Stat Guy, Justice For Leo

My laptop is in front of me, my fingers are on the keyboard and my cup of coffee is getting cold. It’s getting cold because when I first ordered it I sat down to write about Lionel Messi. I thought this was easy…Obviously not.

You see, when it comes to Lionel Messi you ask yourself a golden question: “where do I begin?”

Lionel Messi recently broke the “La Liga top scorer of all time” record.  Nothing is more fascinating than how it all started.

“That chip though”

It goes unnoticed, sometimes, how Leo changed parts of the game. Leo has the ability to execute a perfect chip every time he encounters a goalkeeper. Now if you’ve ever grabbed a ball with a group of friends and headed down to the field to show off your mad skills, you would know that executing a chip with this much ease, precision, beauty, and in that ridiculous repetitive physics conquering  *deep breath* fashion is one of the most difficult things in the sport. As for Lionel, he does it after a few milliseconds from receiving the ball.

It’s almost as if time stops, Leo prepares himself for the chip, executes it, then he presses “play” for you to watch what he is about to do.
Why bother do that when I can just smash it in? I mean a goal is a goal after all… Right?

On paper and for the stat obsessed a goal is a goal. It will just increment the score-line by one. However, for spectators and people who have paid money to be entertained (after all that’s the point of the sport) 1 plus 1 is rarely equal 2.

This leads me to my point.

A letter to mister stat guy

Dear mister stat guy,

I have something to say.

How will you record what Lionel Messi has just done? Do you think a bunch of numbers will represent what he does on the field?

Your book goes something like this: “Lionel Messi, 3 dribbles, 1 chance created”

Does your statement describe that Lionel just made 3 players look like absolute fools after he controlled the ball with an astonishing fashion? Does your statement describe that the thousands in the stadium were suddenly on their feet and the millions watching at home were either giggling or in shock? Does your statement mention that Lionel has just seen a player who is yards away from him, detected his run, and sent the ball with so much precision that the teammate’s run coincided with the ball hitting the ground? Did your statement mention that Lionel had the physical and mental ability to execute these four actions in a matter of 2 seconds? Will your numbers do him any justice?

No, mister stat guy, your statement brought Leo down to the level of other footballers. We can now sadly compare in numbers.

However, these thousands in the stadium and the millions watching at home disagree with what you have to say. They felt the adrenaline. They enjoyed the moment Leo had the ball. They wanted the ball to be given back to him so that they could tell their friends: “Okay, now watch him do something ridiculous”.
Mister stat guy, what did you say when Lionel dribbled the Real Madrid players from midfield to score? I guess it’s something like “3 dribbles, 1 goal”.

But did you take into consideration that this player was psychologically willing to dribble every single one of these top players from midfield in a Champions League semi-final and he actually did it? Did you look past your excel sheet and see the look on people’s faces? You’ll see some guy with tears of joy in his eyes, a woman in absolute disbelief, and a kid who can’t wait to play football to try to imitate what Lionel had just done.

These people are the ones who are truly evaluating the player. You, on the other hand just wrote down “3 dribbles” and “1 goal”. The rest, however, is lost in a silly comparison later on.

Lionel Messi is one of the players whose actions on the field can never be measured in numbers. Flair, technique, thrill, intelligence, cooperation, and ridiculously accurate decision making CANNOT be measured in numbers.

When I sat down to write about Lionel Messi I knew I would not be able to give him enough credit for the brilliance he has shown throughout his career. I knew I would not find enough words to describe him and that’s the reason why this is so short. But I definitely know what makes him great and it was never the numbers. Lionel Messi made you love the sport even more. Lionel Messi kept on impressing the spectators. Lionel Messi built his career on constantly giving hell to the world’s best teams. Lionel Messi is the only player in the world and possibly in history, who you, as a spectator, expect absolutely anything from.
Can you describe that in numbers though?

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go grab another cup of coffee.














  1. Herein lies why Leo will forever be >>>>>>> CR, he’s so much more than just Numbers. Great piece chief and , again, couldn’t agree with you more Kevin on the award going to Neuer. It’s nice being able to have that convo somewhere, every mainstream message board site is simply CR fans and their stats.

  2. If I may plagiarize a quote from a brilliant author who I suppose won’t mind:

    It was Messirine, the colour of football magic. It was alive and glowing and vibrant and it was the undisputed pigment of the imagination, because wherever it appeared it was a sign that mere matter was a servant of the powers of the magical mind. It was enchantment itself.

    Still, some would insist it was a rather drab blue-reddish colour.

  3. Also, Chief, you put into words what we normal football fans express by randomly smacking keys on the keyboard while performing a primal tribal dance of ecstasy and victory. It’s difficult for us to put it into words, because normal words, like numbers, pale before what he does. As you said, they bring him down to the level of normal footballers, fast, skilful, tall, strong and mighty as they may be.

    Still, sometimes some words fit.

    And I thank you for that.

  4. I was never a football guy! Always played and loved cricket, and was a hardcore fanatic of the sport. THAT semi final goal against Madrid was the 1st goal i watched Lio score and i fell in love. There is no other way to describe it for me. To this day i havn’t missed a single goal Lio scored ever since. The immense joy of watching Lio run with the ball and do the impossible time and again. And it’s funny that i read this article today because i was thinking the same thing today. A Messi goal is not any goal, his assist is not just another assist, his precised pass is not any pass. It’s poetry in motion! And only someone like Ray Hudson can do justice in describing what Messi does on a football pitch. No Stat guy! No anyone else!!

    1. Yea, I think no-one who has seen that goal would disagree that Messi is a phenomenon, simply the best player in the world. And that’s another thought – I think that formerly the phrase “best player in the world” was used as a challenge, as in “my best player candidate is better than yours”. But with Messi it becomes quite possibly to use it in another way, almost factual. That alone says a lot, as does the fact that no team puts three players to the task of stopping, say, Cristiano Ronaldo or Aguero (both obviously highly dangerous forwards), but it has become commonplace to do it for Messi.

      I’m looking forward to see how the transition from goal-scoring machine to attacking and assisting midfielder (with still enough goals scored to equal players like Neymar and Suarez) will go.

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