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The Argentinian captain is soccer’s Harlem Globetrotter. He makes defenders look silly on even the simplest one-touches, thanks to a gift for instantaneously calculating impossibly precise angles.


Think of Messi like Peyton Manning in his prime: He seems to see and read his opponents’ moves in slow motion—before they even think of them. Then he attacks with ruthless grace and delivers the ball with perfect touch.


You don’t win five FIFA Ballons d’Or (world player of the year) and guide your team (FC Barcelona) to four UEFA Champions League titles without a Michael Jordan–like competitive fire coursing through your veins.


Just because you can’t touch the soccer ball with your hands doesn’t mean your arms aren’t important. Messi uses his to maintain a gymnast’s balance while making subtly effective contact with defenders, leading to an elusiveness reminiscent of the way Wayne Gretzky could glide unmolested between opponents on the ice.


Messi is no Lance Armstrong, but performance enhancing drugs do play a part in his lore. Only four feet two inches tall as an 11-year-old, he was diagnosed with a growth hormone disorder. But thanks to a three-year HGH regimen, he’s big enough to compete at five feet seven inches.


It’s not just that Messi is lightning fast (he accelerates as quickly as Pro Bowl running backs while dribbling), he’s somehow the quickest man on the pitch and the most powerful. When he’s barreling at opponents at full speed, it’s like LeBron James on a fast break: All defenders can do is pray.


Think Steph Curry bombing it from deep is cool? Check out Messi’s precision on set pieces. The way he bends the ball in otherworldly ways makes us wonder if he’s a real-life wizard. Plus, basketball hoops don’t have goalies.

Copa America

June 4, 14 & 16, CenturyLink Field, $50–$695

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