Messi is on another level even when he looks ‘normal’

The most frequent or flagrant ‘mistake’ when trying to evaluate Messi using stats and numbers is using one single dimension (or criteria) to evaluate a player that has many dimensions (even when considering just his attacking play). In this way, many people have difficulties to understand how different and what an outlier Messi is.

Messi is probably the best goal scorer of the last years, but there are other players who are close and comparable to him in goal scoring terms (the obvious example of Cristiano Ronaldo). In a similar way, Messi is undoubtedly one of the best playmakers and dribblers of the last years, but there are other players also who have similar playmaking (Xavi Hernández; Mesut Özil) and dribbling (Neymar; Franck Ribéry) abilities to Messi. Because of this, when statistically comparing just one aspect of Messi’s play to other players, we understand that he is the best but maybe we fail to recognize how good he really is. What makes Messi so unique is that he has the best possible combination of goal scoring, playmaking and dribbling abilities in one player.

In order to get an idea where Messi position himself compared to the other players, I made three charts. These charts combine numbers of goals scored, successful dribbles and chances created by through ball for those players that managed to score 10 or more league goals in a single season in the Top 5 Leagues since the start of the 2009/10 season. In overall we have 723 data points (please note that one player may feature multiple times in the chart in case he has scored 10+ goals in multiple seasons). All the data are provided by whoscored.com.

Below you have the charts and they are self-explanatory.

Messi-vs-the-rest-of-Europe-(I)

Chart 1 – Goals per 90 min and successful dribbles per 90 min in the Top 5 Leagues during the last 7 seasons.

Messi-vs-the-rest-of-Europe-(II)

Chart 2 – Goals per 90 min and through ball chances created per 90 min in the Top 5 Leagues during the last 7 seasons.

Messi-vs-the-rest-of-Europe-(III)

Chart 3 – Successful dribbles per 90 min and through ball chances created per 90 min in the Top 5 Leagues during the last 7 seasons.

1 comment
  1. Danton said:

    While I like the idea of tracking players in a holistic multi-feature way, the way you just added them all up is terrible from a methodology standpoint since each of those stats scale differently and also are relevent (eg correlated) to a success metric (such as wins or goals created overall) at varying degrees. In truth these numbers mean little.

    An alternate agglomerated stat that is already used and is quite suitable for the purpose of rating overall attacking is Expg which sums up the goals + expectations of goals based on throughballs & key passes & dribbles. The calculation of the latter would mostly be done by finding Expg of the endpoint of the pass or dribble and subtract it by expg of the starting point. Look at the work of Dan Altman and Michael Caley for examples of this.

    Like

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