During the World Cup many pundits and experts have been quick to draw comparisons between Lionel Messi and his Argentina coach Diego Maradona, but no matter what the Barcelona man does he will never be as revered as Maradona.
When comparing the two individuals as players there are many similarities both played for Barcelona, both number 10s for their country, they are diminutive in stature and as Maradona was once considered the world’s most talented player many argue that Messi is currently the best, with Cristiano Ronaldo being the only other player who comes close.
However, should Argentina go on to do well in the World Cup it will be their coach lauded in the headlines in his native country and he already receives more attention than his stars.
As a maverick, madman, cheat, genius, hero, former drug user, controversial and troubled character Maradona’s name will go down in history and will be remembered by all. Whereas, the humble and bland Messi will never be remembered as one of the greats, even if he did help Argentina shock their doubters and win the World Cup in South Africa.
Because of his idiosyncrasies Messi will never be able to eclipse the former Napoli man’s name.
Maradona is also a walking soundbite, who is sometimes amusingly unafraid to be controversial and voice his opinions.
On the nation of France he said:
“We all know what the French are like and Platini as a Frenchman thinks he knows it all.”
On Pele after the Brazilian was touted as the best player ever and after the pair were voted FIFA’s joint Player of the Century awards:
“Pele should go back to the museum.
“The people voted for me. Now they want me to share the prize with Pele. I’m not going to share the prize with anybody.”
And on his doubters this outburst:
“To those who did not believe: now suck my d**k – I’m sorry ladies for my words – and keep on sucking it. I am either white or black. I will never be grey in my life. You treated me as you did. Now keep on sucking d**ks. I am grateful to my players and to the Argentinian people. I thank no one but them. The rest, keep on sucking d**ks.”
He has also called George Bush a “murderer”, called his best player a ball-hogger and has claimed that he smashed up a photographer’s car “with the hand of reason.”
Maradona is remembered most by England fans as a cheat after punching the ball in the net against the Three Lions in 1986. This was the game that secured his legendary status as he caused one of the World Cup’s most shocking moments for Argentina’s first goal with “The Hand of God”, then he scored the greatest goal in the history of football as glided past Peter Beardsley, Steve Hodge, Peter Reid (twice), Terry Butcher and Terry Fenwick with ease and put the ball past goalkeeper Peter Shilton.
After many more virtuoso displays for club and country over the next few years he found his name in the headlines for all the wrong reasons in 1994. During the World Cup in the USA the Argentine was sent home in disgrace for failing a drugs test…remember that crazed goal celebration after his goal against Greece?
Unfortunately his drug abuse and weight issues became a real threat to his health and his life was under on several occasions between 2004-2007, but he appears a lot healthier now (judging by his Jurgen Klinsmann-esque diving celebration after Martin Palermo’s goal earned Argentina a place in South Africa).
In comparison Barcelona’s Messi has the blistering skill, but apart from a dodgy haircut has little else to his personality and for me he will never be considered a legend or an icon like Maradona, Johan Cruyff, Pele, Zinedine Zidane or George Best.
I realise I’m being pretty harsh on Messi (he is a fantastic individual, probably a nice guy too), but do fans think he will ever achieve a legendary or iconic status and eclipse Maradona?
The greatest goal ever: