“Lionel Messi is impossible” reads the headline from advanced statistics site Fivethirtyeight.com, and it’s immediately impossible not to dive into the piece.
What will the numbers tell us that we don’t already know? Messi is a wizard who is erasing the doubts of a nation — his own — with four goals in three games heading into their role as heavy favorites against Switzerland today in the World Cup’s Round of 16.
Well, let’s put it this way: there’s been a lot of talk about the identity of the best player in the world given Messi’s relative struggles this season at Barcelona and strong campaigns from presumed Nos. 2 and 3 Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Suarez.
And there just may not be a comparison, even conceding that Messi has not been as prolific for his nation as his club. As the study says, “if Barca-Messi and Argentina-Messi were two different people, even based solely on the stats recorded since 2010, there’s a good chance they’d be the two best players in the world.”
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 absurd charts for proof: Messi is as close to unstoppable as it gets in this day and age. He’s one of the best shooters, passers, creators, runners and even, relatively speaking, defending forwards in the world. But we knew that.
Here’s my favorite chart, calculating value added on shots and passes:
Yeah… he’s good.
Mario Balotelli could soon have a new home, according to the BBC’s Phil McNulty.
The mercurial Italian striker, 26, has one league goal in each of his last two seasons (spent between Liverpool and AC Milan).
Jurgen Klopp is ready for Balotelli to find a home away from Anfield and McNulty says that place could be OGC Nice, where he’d join newly-signed ex-Bayern man Dante. Balotelli also had talks with Sion in Switzerland, according to the report.
The striker was a blazing hot commodity after scoring 17 goals for Manchester City in 2011-12, and again after netting 18 for AC Milan in 2013-14.
Balotelli has 13 goals in 33 caps for Italy, but hasn’t appeared for the national team since 2014.
After months and months of trying to land a big name striker, it seems West Ham has done just that.
David Amoyal of DiMarzio says that Juventus striker Simone Zaza is on his way to the London Stadium for a medical which will seal a $32 million transfer to West Ham.
[ MORE: Chelsea adds EURO champion ]
Zaza, 25, made his name as Sassuolo before moving to Juve last season, and forced his way into the national team. He has 14 caps with one goal, but is perhaps better remembered at this point for missing a penalty — with a creative run-up — in Italy’s final EURO game.
The striker had been linked with West Ham as far back as this time last season.
This move should help insure the Hammers avoid too many goalless outcome moving forward, even with Andy Carroll and Andre Ayew out for a while.
That’ll be music to Slaven Bilic‘s ears. The manager said, “The disappointment is massive” after his side couldn’t break down Astra Giurgiu and dropped out of the UEFA Europa League on Thursday.
Chelsea have added some depth at the very back.
Eduardo’s the name, and the 33-year-old Portuguese backstop arrives at Stamford Bridge with a decent resume, having been on the roster for his country’s EURO 2016 triumph.
[ MORE: Stambouli, Bentaleb reunited ]
USMNT fans will remember him from his time between the sticks for Portugal at the 2014 World Cup. He has 35 caps, and has been with Dinamo Zagreb since 2014.
‘All the colleagues I have always say the dream is to come to the Premier League, where there are the best clubs and the best players, and the opportunity to come here arrived at this moment.
‘I am happy to be here and I hope I meet the expectations people have for me.’
Eduardo certainly won’t be taking over for Thibaut Courtois, but will definitely provide competition for No. 2 Asmir Begovic.
West Ham dominated the game but not the score line against Romanian side Astra Giurgiu, who advanced to the UEFA Europa League group stage with a 1-0 win at London Stadium on Thursday.
Well-traveled French midfielder Filipe Teixeira did the damage for Astra Giurgiu, as the former West Brom and Barnsley man scored in the 45th minute to give the visitors a 2-1 lead on aggregate after the sides went 1-1 in Romania last week.
The Irons carried possession and a wealth of shots, but couldn’t find their way past Romanian international goalkeeper Silviu Lung, Jr.
[ MORE: Stambouli, Bentaleb reunited at Schalke ]
Sassuolo star Domenico Berardi scored in a 1-1 draw with Red Star Belgrade, completing a 4-1 score line.
Elsewhere, a hat trick from Slovan Liberec’s Jan Sykora led the Czech side to a 3-0 second leg win, and 4-0 aggregate defeat of Cypriot side AEK Larnaca.
Gent got a pair of goals from giant Malian striker Kalifa Coulibaly as the Belgians completed a 6-1 aggregate win over Shkendija.
West Ham United 0-1 (agg. 1-2) Astra Giurgiu
Astana 2-2 (agg. 4-2) BATE Borisov
Arouca 1-2 (agg. 1-3) Olympiacos
Midtjylland 0-3 (agg. 0-4) Osmanlispor
Trencin 2-0 (agg. 0-4) Rapid Wien
Lokomotiva 0-2 (agg. 2-4) Genk
AEK Larnaca 0-3 (agg. 0-4) Slovan Liberec
Dinamo Tbilisi 0-2 (agg. 0-5) PAOK
Austria Wien 2-1 (agg. 4-2) Rosenborg
Beitar Jerusalem 0-0 (agg. 1-2) Saint-Etienne
Vojvodina 0-0 (agg. 0-3) AZ Alkmaar
Gabala 0-1 (agg. 3-2) Maribor
Slavia Prague 0-3 (agg. 0-6) Anderlecht
Fenerbahce 2-0 (agg. 3-0) Grasshopper
Panathinaikos 1-1 (agg. 4-1) Brondby
Krasnodar 0-0 (agg. 4-0) Partizani Tirana
Gent 4-0 (agg. 6-1) Shkendija
Istanbul Basaksehir 0-2 (agg. 1-4) Shakhtar Donetsk
SonderjyskE 2-3 (agg. 2-3) Sparta Prague
Sassuolo 1-1 (agg. 4-1) Red Star Belgrade
Goteborg 0-3 (agg. 1-3) Qarabag
Maccabi Tel Aviv 1-2 (agg. 3-3) Hajduk Split