"What I do is play soccer"

Now Lionel Messi has a chance to prove he can play it better than anyone on earth

Updated: May 27, 2009, 10:43 AM ET
By Chad Nielsen | ESPN The Magazine

This article originally appeared in the June 1 issue of ESPN The Magazine.

The best soccer player in the world is hungry. Walking through the steel belly of Europe's largest stadium, fresh off a Friday morning practice, Lionel Messi looks even smaller than his listed height of 5'6". The FC Barcelona forward added a line to his legend two nights before, against Real Betis, when he fended off shoulders, elbows and cleats, cut toward the end line from the right corner of the goal ...

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The diminutive Argentine may not look like the best player in the world, but that designation -- subject to the hottest debate on the sports planet -- is as elusive as Messi himself.