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Words, Numbers Fail to Capture Messi

Juan Carlos Cardenas/European Pressphoto Agency

It was Pep Guardiola, the former manager of Barcelona, who once suggested that Lionel Messi should be observed instead of dissected. He is, after all, widely considered the world’s greatest soccer player, not a biology project.

“Don’t try to write about him,” Guardiola said. “Don’t try to describe him. Watch him.”

Last Sunday, Messi set an international record by scoring his 86th goal in a calendar year, for both Barcelona and the Argentine national team, delivering an average of one goal every four days, more frequently than a starting pitcher takes the mound, as often as...

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