Clichés crowd the mind whenever we try to speak meaningfully about the things we love, but the congestion is especially thick around discussions of soccer. The beautiful game seems to mock our best efforts to describe its beauty. In-game commentators, who have the unfortunate task of trying to capture the sport’s nuances in real time, resort to formulas, bleated and bawled with gusto (“It’s a game of two halves,” “End-to-end stuff,” “What a goal!”), that are hopelessly incommensurate to the action they are supposedly describing. Those who regularly watch Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, widely regarded as the contemporary game’s greatest player, will have observed a note of candid helplessness creeping into the announcers’ patter. These days, every time Messi scuttles through a thicket of defenders and, looking less like a striker than a golfer pensively lining up a putt, slots the ball neatly home, the commentators tend simply to acknowledge that they have already exhausted all possible terms of approbation.