Former Barcelona and Real Madrid star Gheorghe Hagi has opined that Diego Maradona is the greatest footballer of all time. The Romanian legend claimed that Maradona stands taller than even present day greats like Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, while also claiming the Argentinian favourite was better than Barca legend Johann Cryuff.
In an interview with Spanish newspaper AS, Hagi was firm when asked who the greatest footballer of all time was, saying “Honestly, Maradona. I saw him in a match when I was 21, when he was 24, in a match we played in Celta - the foreigners in Spain against the Romanian players – and he stunned me.
“We can also see the same talents in Messi and Cristiano. There are a lot of amazing players. I liked Cryuff a lot too, I really liked him.”
Hagi can claim to be relatively unbiased when it comes to picking between Barcelona and Real Madrid legends, having played for both La Liga giants in a period from 1990 – 1996. However, he won only two Spanish Supercups in that time, never winning the league with either of the two clubs.
Hagi still prefers Messi among the current generation
With plenty of plaudits in the current zeitgeist for Cristiano Ronaldo, fresh off of winning the Ballon d’Or in 2016, Hagi is going against the grain by considering Lionel Messi the best in the world at the moment. Barcelona’s Argentine superstar reminded everyone of his talents with a magical run against RCD Espanyol that has renewed football’s eternal debate.
Hagi is having none of it, claiming that Messi and Barcelona have changed football forever. The Romanian star said, “Messi has always had an amazing team behind him. I think that was his luck, to be in a team with 20 extraordinary players. They changed football forever.”
“There were so pragmatic, so simple, going from simple to complicated with a lot of technique. Because what matters is the mind, the talent and the skills of the player, because you have to choose players with talent."
While Hagi’s admiration of Messi is clear, the Romanian still considers Maradona a class apart. The pair had some near misses when it came to playing in the same league, with the year Hagi moved from Spain to Italy (1992) being the same time Maradona made his move in the other direction.