A lot of people, including the fans, experts, commentators, and coaches, say that Lionel Messi is the best in the game of football. They go on to say that he has achieved greatness which cannot be emulated by anyone in the near future. It is not the future but the past that needs reflection. It was a past that produced a crown jewel known as Diego Maradona who is, with all his imperfections as a person, a true legend of the game.
Maradona started playing very early and at a young age of 16, was inducted in Argentinos Juniors. The very next year, he started playing for his national team, Argentina. When Maradona started out, he was shy and timid as a player. Very soon, he realised that if he had to survive in the world of professional football, his way of working needed a change.
There were no teammates to support him in his struggle. Maradona drew lessons from his idols, George Best and Rivelino. He never looked back and played a kind of football that put the world was at his feet, watching in awe and admiration.
Messi made his senior debut at the age of 16 for Barcelona C. He was lucky enough to have Ronaldinho, who helped him like a big brother which made things easier. Messi was also a gifted player, but he had the support of the coaching staff and players, who helped him catapult his career to another level.
Maradona in his prime was a magician who dribbled the ball from the half-line, beating at least 3-4 opposition players to score a goal. It seemed that the ball was attached to his feet when he ran with it.
Maradona was always marked by two to three players, and every ten meters he ran, they fell him down by a brutal tackle or a deliberate foul. The two goals against England in the 1986 World Cup are still etched in the memories of football fans. It has been 32 years, and they can still tell the intricate details of how he scored the goal. That was the beauty of Diego Maradona.
Messi has scored more goals than Maradona and has been equally potent for his club, if not for his country. Ask any fan to detail one of Messi's memorable goal, and they would think twice before they commit.
Statistically, Messi has gone far ahead than Maradona, but a footballer's quality is not only measured in terms of the goals he scored. It is about the impact and the difference he creates in the world of football. This is where Maradona races ahead of Messi.
Maradona started an era where his contemporaries were always in awe of him. He mesmerized them with his speed, accuracy, and dribbling skills. His naturally low centre-of-gravity enabled him to steer past the defence of the opposition. When he played, nobody came close to him.
Messi, on the contrary, does not have this advantage. His contemporaries admire him, but he does not quite enjoy the popularity, which Maradona enjoyed during his heydays. He has Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar, and others who stand almost equal to him in stature.
The ultimate test of a football player is to win the World Cup for their country, Maradona did it, and Messi has not. There is no bigger justification that Maradona is superior to Messi in all respect.Published 04 Nov 2018, 06:48 IST