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July 12, 2019

Introducing the Lionel Messi Data Biography

By Ted Knutson

Scene: StatsBomb Strategy Meeting, Autumn 2018

“Should we release a new men’s data set soon? People seem to really enjoy the World Cup.”

“Probably? We’re definitely going to release the Women’s World Cup next summer, and we’ll put it out daily.”

“Oo, I like that.”

“Okay, but back to the men’s side… what could we release that would matter?”

“We could do a season of Premier League data. That would certainly get eyeballs.”

“Nah, Manchester City already did that in 12-13.”

“Really? Man, where did that data go? No one even knows that.”

“It’s not a terrible idea, but maybe we can do better.”

“What about a season of La Liga? I feel like that market has been under served and deserves some love.”

“Not bad. Maybe you do 17-18 so you get both Ronaldo and Messi in it.”

“That seems fine, but I’m still not excited.”

“I have this idea for some older matches. The Manchester United treble turns 20 this spring. It would be really interesting to collect some of that run and do the analysis of those games in a modern light.”

“Oo, I love that. Let’s do it.”

“Yeah, but it’s still not enough data for a public release. People want something they can sink their teeth into.”

“What if we release the last two seasons of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi and really compare from a data perspective? They are clearly the two best players of all time.”

“Ronaldo, yuck.”

“One or two seasons of Lionel Messi isn’t cool.”

“You know what would be cool? ALL of Lionel Messi.”

*silence*

“Oh shit… that’s never been done. Messi started in like 2005 – I don’t think data companies produced x/y data that early.” 

“Can we even get the video on that?!?”

“Let’s find out!”

 

And that is how the Messi Data Biography began. Getting the video was an enormous pain in my ass. None of the usual video platforms have video anywhere near that far back. We then talked to friends, clubs, and former media rights holders for months trying to track down all these matches. I pulled every string I could think of and we were still only able to get to about 90% completion, hitting a hard wall with the last 10%. About at the point where we were going to buy DVDs off eBay in a hope we could fill in as much as possible, Pablo Rodriguez found a super-fan video archivist, and this source filled in all the missing matches. You all owe Pablo many, many drinks for his service. I’ve basically been floating on a cloud ever since.

So what is the Messi Data Biography? Quite simply, it is a data archive of every match Lionel Messi has played in La Liga since his career began in 2004-05.

We collected all of this data with our own time, energy, and crossed eyeballs (the old video is really poor quality) over the last few months as a kind of passion project. At this point, every single member of the StatsBomb and Arqam team has contributed, and I can only thank them for all of the hard work getting us to this point.

The MDB exists on the top tier StatsBomb Data spec for the 18-19 season, so despite the fact that these matches occurred as far back as 04-05, the data is the same incredibly rich event data our Champions League customers use right now. 

It was expensive. It was painful. It is… fucking brilliant. 

Messi’s first senior goal? We’ve got that. Messi’s entire Pep career? That too. The body count from all of the opponents Messi nutmegged in his career? Also in the data!

And we will be releasing all of this data TO THE PUBLIC over the next four weeks.

To recap: Free data. For the entire La Liga career. Of the greatest footballer ever.

The schedule from July 15-August 9 (a.k.a ‘Messi Month’) looks like this:

Monday – Analysis from each set of seasons will be published on StatsBomb.com and our media partners.

Tuesday – That same data will be released to the public for non-commercial use. The first Tuesday, we will also publish our own R primer written by Euan Dewar to help people who are new to the data and R get started.

Wednesday and every other day after – You get to analyse, visualise, and simply play with the data yourselves.


This is our gift to football. We hope you enjoy.

–Ted Knutson
CEO, StatsBomb
ted@statsbomb.com

P.S. I know there will be soooooo many questions people have. I may put out an FAQ next week to answer the bulk of the important ones. (Like will you release all of Messi’s CL data, etc etc etc.) For now, just enjoy your weekend!

P.P.S. I said I wouldn’t leak until July 15th. I didn’t. This isn’t a leak. This is an ANNOUNCEMENT. It’s like, a totally different thing.


NOTE: If you wish to use any data from the Messi Data Biography for commercial purposes, please send an email to
Sales@StatsBomb.com

 

Article by Ted Knutson