Maradona to Messi – A fair comparison?

By Online Editorial

Lionel Messi

The similarities between Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi are many, but only time will tell if Barcelona’s current number 10 can achieve what ‘El Pibe’ did.

They will join forces as Maradona coaches Messi in the upcoming World Cup and that might give us a clue.

The playing style and ability of Lionel Messi has drawn comparisons to football legend Diego Maradona and there are genuine and numerous similarities.

Both Argentines are diminutive in stature. They had to use a swiftness of mind allied to a deft mastery of the ball to counter aggressive defending and intimidation. They wore the same shirt number, played for Barcelona in their formative years; both made their international debuts before they were 18-years old.

Both are playmakers or second strikers with a cultured left foot. They are visionary and excellent passers of a football with that rare gift of setting up and scoring spectacular goals. Here’s the proof.

Remarkably their games per goals statistics bear a striking resemblance. Messi has scored 59 goals in 114 games at club level(1.93 games per goal) and Maradona 258 goals in 490 games (1.90). Messi has 14 international goals in 40 matches (2.11 games per goal) and Maradona 34 goals in 91 appearances (2.68).

In 2008-09 Messi scored 38 goals to play a starring role in a treble winning campaign consisting of the Copa del Rey, La Liga and the Champions League, helping Barcelona become the first Spanish team to win those three titles in a single season. His nine goals in the Champions League made him the top scorer of the tournament, and he was named both UEFA Club Forward and UEFA Club Footballer of the Year.

He currently headlines the 30-strong list of nominees for the Ballon d’Or to be announced on 1 December 2009 and it would be a huge shock if he doesn’t walk away with the award. Currently Messi is not only the best footballer in the world but a potential untapped.

Refreshing honesty, tango flair, subtlety and refinement have all been harnessed together to make an intoxicating mix! He is the darling of the present Argentinian team and carries the hopes of his country into the next 2010 World Cup, an unfair burden for anyone so young to have to carry. It is difficult enough to try to predict what he can achieve, let alone try to predict whether he can achieve as much as Maradona.

Although many will argue that skill and fitness levels were lower in Maradona’s day, he played in an era of the cynical tackle, without the protection now afforded. Andoni Goikoetxea (The Butcher of Bilbao) was testimony to such barbarism and one of his crudest tackles put him out of the game for a year!

Maradona had enormous strength, willpower and determination. He was versatile and unpredictable and never disappeared during a game. He enjoyed and encouraged a game of high tempo, he led by example and was the heartbeat and of any team he played for. Uniquely defenders could not stop Maradona fairly, he was impossible to mark or pick up – something rarely seen in football!

Maradona influenced a new generation of footballers as he participated in four consecutive FIFA World Cup tournaments. As captain he led them to victory over West Germany in 1986, winning the Golden Ball award as the tournament’s best player. His gaucho swagger was not pretence – he achieved and was not frightened to win. Maradona was the greatest player the game has produced and I’m not the only one who feels that way.

Sadly, post his 1991 season at Napoli, he has became a disgrace to his country and the sport. His unattractive and unsavoury personality prevents him being idolised universally and bad behaviour continues to this day. Many would argue that his shameful actions have disqualified himself from greatness.

Messi and Maradona they are now comrades in arms as they try and win a third World Cup for Argentina.

Reproduced with permission from © The Sporting Exchange Limited


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