Despite Argentina’s unceremonious departure from this year’s World Cup — following an embarrassing group stage performance — their star player Lionel Messi is still a wonder to watch on the field — particularly when he doesn’t have the ball. Bobby Gardiner for FiveThirtyEight:
Throughout his career, Messi has been criticized for walking. After an El Clasico match between Barcelona and Real Madrid in December 2017, there was widespread coverage of the fact that Messi walked 83 percent of the roughly 5 miles he covered that game. Despite this, he scored and assisted in Barca’s 3-0 trouncing. […]
The most popular explanation has been that Messi walks to conserve his energy for critical moments, like a perfectly efficient machine. But even when he’s walking, new research suggests, he’s far from idle.