Going through sports websites, it’s a common sight to see questions like “is Messi the best player ever”, “is Messi better than Maradona”. Many people agree (though most of them have never seen Diego play, or even Zidane play), and I have nothing against them ,but on a personal note I always feel no one can replace the ‘old school’ legends not only in football but In any field be it cricket, tennis or even Music.
What makes a player great? Well it can be said if a player is skillful he can be considered great. But most of the time we see players fade after 3-4 years at the top. This is where the role of character comes into picture. A player may not be the most talented of the bunch but character and longevity makes him get above the rest. This can be said for Javier Zanetti, Gary Neville or Jamie Carragher, not the most skillful of the lot playing alongside them, but their spirit and character always lay above the rest. Of course most of the Liverpool fans don’t like Gary Neville but deep down, a true fan has a massive respect for him. The same can be said about any United fan and Carragher.
What makes a player a universally accepted legend? People will talk about players with great skill, flair that has wooed the world. In that context players like Ronaldinho, Zola, Zico comes to mind. Ginger players they were, simply brilliant, but the truth is they faded in 3-4 years. I may have many critics in including Ronaldinho in that list, but you see he faded when he was only 26 years old. Mind you I have don’t have anything against him, in fact I feel he, at his prime was the best player the world has ever seen, but you expect any players top season when he is around 25-29.Yes the players lose a yard of pace but they gain maturity which is one of the key things for a person to be great. Longevity in the game is a vital aspect to be a great. See players like Pele, Sir Bobby Charlton, Zidane or Maradona, all played the game until their mid thirties, not as pushover but as a key player.
Why I will never rate players like Messi and Ronaldo to be greater than the players like Maradona, Zidane, Pele, and Cruyff include many factors. First and the biggest thing include the protection the modern players get from the referees. In todays game the players; the managers pressurize the ref to protect their ‘star’ man. In the game most of the players with the slightest of touches goes to the ground expecting a foul. Mind you a good tackle from behind were never considered a foul let alone a yellow card. This was the thing that tested players’ skill, endurance and character to the limit. In that generation players like Diego, Platini, Cruyff stood up and laid the marker. Secondly in modern times you have got all these boots, footballs of the latest technology, which helps greatly in swerving and all those weird movements in the air. Sweet it may look, but the pre 90s footballers would always say they never got to play with all these equipments (mind you, they had a rock solid leather ball and heavier than brick, football studs).
Now everyone would have a different say on this, it’s a just a personal opinion and I am not implying that Messi can’t reach the ultimate level of Maradona or Pele. But he has a long way to go. It’s always an insult to these legends when the modern players are compared to them only after 3-4 years at the top level.
Pele once asked whether Messi was better than him replied with a smart quote:
“He’s a great player. He plays very well for Barcelona, but has failed to show his talent with the Argentine team. Maybe he can at the world cup. Let’s wait and see.”
Jokingly he added “Score a thousand goals, to be considered as a legend like me”