Does Diego Maradona have a point over Pele and Platini?

Diego’s at it again. The world’s foremost media-savvy manager (move over Jose) has responded to criticism aimed at him from both Michel Platini and Pele, urging the Brazilian to “go back to the museum” and claiming that Platini “is French, and he believes he is better than rest.” Far from unprovoked acts of verbal assault, the notoriously outspoken Maradona’s retorts may highlight the faults of both Platini and Pele.

The rivalry between Pele and Diego Maradona is a long-standing one, and the Brazilian is no stranger to anti-Maradona sentiments. With the duo frequently topping polls to find the best footballer of all-time (indeed FIFA decided to share their player of the century award between the two), amusing levels of animosity have developed between the pair, with Maradona once infamously claiming that Pele lost his virginity to a man. Humour aside, Maradona’s instruction for Pele to “go back to the museum” highlights the fact that the great Brazilian is noted for his proclivity to pass comment on matters that are of no real concern to him – in this instance, there was no need for Pele to state that the reason Maradona took the Argentina post was because he needed the money.

However, Maradona’s assessment of Platini may be of greater relevance. Since becoming UEFA President in January 2007, Platini has managed to irritate many within European football, with the domestic media accusing the Frenchman of having an ‘anti-English agenda’. Platini notoriously described Manchester City’s £100 million bid for then AC Milan midfielder Kaka as ridiculous, whilst greeting Real Madrid’s £80 million acquisition of Cristiano Ronaldo by stating, “The big clubs always want the best players and I can understand why Real would love to have him. It is normal for a club to want a player if they have the finances.”

Maradona’s recent barb at Platini stems from the UEFA President’s defence of the Adidas Jabulani ball. Speaking of the much-maligned World Cup ball, Maradona said, “And, of course, there’s the ball. I don’t want to go into the ball again because everyone is talking about it, but it is important and it does play a part and I would ask Pelé and Platini to go out there and play with the ball and take a closer look at it to see if it’s a good one or bad one, and to stop talking rubbish about me.”

Maradona’s reservations about the Adidas Jabulani do not appear to be unwarranted, especially when considering the vast number of people within the game that have criticised the ball. As well as receiving criticism from the likes of Iker Casillas and Gianluigi Buffon, the ball has not been favourably received by outfield players and coaches, with Denmark defender Daniel Agger stating (of the Adidas Jabulani) that, “It’s frustrating…it makes us look like drunken sailors.” England coach Fabio Capello, a hugely respected figure within the game, said “I think it’s the worst ball we have played with at a World Cup. It’s impossible to control the ball for the keeper. For the players it’s not easy. I’ve seen that the ball arrives really fast and the players are having problems controlling it. For the keepers it is terrible because it is always moving.”

Portrayed as a walking sound bite in some circles, Maradona is undeniably prone to provocative nonsense. However, this time, it seems as though Argentina’s greatest ever player actually has a point to make.

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