All three men are regularly touted when discussions of the greatest footballer in history take place. While Gatti has respect for Lionel Messi and Diego Maradona, he believes Pele was a better player than the duo. He told Ole:
''The best was Pele, I saw him play a lot, I faced him. Maradona is up there with the likes of [Alfredo] Di Stefano, [Johann] Cruyff, although I understand why many put him up there."
"The big difference is that Pele, when he retired, did not have an off-field life as controversial as Maradona's. Diego was very good, but Pele was the greatest.
The 76-year-old added:
"It was very difficult to deal with Diego, one of the biggest personalities in the world like Cassius Clay [Muhammad Ali], like [Michael] Jordan, like Pele, like presidents of the United States.
"I think it was impossible to be Diego, a very special guy. Your environment deifies you, he was like a God on earth, but in reality there is only one God,"
Diego Maradona recently passed away following complications with a heart problem, and Lionel Messi gave his compatriot a moving tribute.
Gatti has always insisted that the current game of football is played at a lower level to what was obtainable in the past.
He has been critical of Lionel Messi but maintained that the six-time Ballon d'Or winner is among the best players he has watched play.
"Messi is the best of recent years, in this [period of] football which is false, which is not football, that has stopped being football. They play with VAR,"
"I'm not bashing Lionel Messi. I have said, and will always say, that Messi, on my list of the best players that I've seen, is in last place."
Lionel Messi and the never-ending GOAT debate
Lionel Messi is a generational talent, and this has been evident from his days at a developmental level in La Masia.
Not only did the Barcelona icon have the talent, but he also rose to the highest stages to rewrite the history of football.
In the last decade, Lionel Messi has been pitted alongside Cristiano Ronaldo, with fans, the media and stakeholders trying to decide who the better of the two is.
Both men's status as all-time greats is without doubt but considering so many factors like different eras of the game and evolution in rules, it is virtually impossible to arrive at a consensus decision for the greatest footballer in history.Published 16 Dec 2020, 21:14 IST