Over at FiveThirtyEight Sports, Benjamin Morris makes a thoroughly convincing case that Argentina's Lionel Messi is the world's best soccer player. Even if you're not big on sportsball, the statistical rigor in Morris' analysis –and the athletic supremacy revealed thereby – is enough to make any data nerd squee.
What Morris' number-running makes clear is something that many soccer fans have no doubt sensed themselves, but found difficult to qualify with cold, hard data: that Messi is an outlier among outliers in the world of professional soccer. Offense. Defense. Assists. Shots on goal from both inside and outside the penalty area. Messi dominates. Even when stacked against big-name players like Ronaldo, his statistics place him so far ahead of the pack so consistently, it boarders on aberrational. As Morris puts it, "Lionel Messi is impossible":
It's not possible to shoot more efficiently from outside the penalty area than many players shoot inside it. It's not possible to lead the world in weak-kick goals and long-range goals. It's not possible to score on unassisted plays as well as the best players in the world score on assisted ones. It's not possible to lead the world's forwards both in taking on defenders and in dishing the ball to others. And it's certainly not possible to do most of these things by insanely wide margins.
But Messi does all of this and more.
Check out the rest of Morris' analysis over at FiveThirtyEight.