Messi, Ronaldo, Pele: Who is the Greatest of All Time?

Legacies are always a dynamic thing. How does current Argentine great Lionel Messi compare to those before him?

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How does Messi compare to  Argentine and all time candidates for GOATs?
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Messi, Ronaldo, Pele: Who is the Greatest of All Time?

Argentina have always been at the forefront of South American football.  They've had brilliant teams who have revolutionised the game as we know it. But the history of Argentina and their World Cup wins when brought into light seems far less incredible.

Argentina won their first World Cup on home soil in 1978. The experienced coach Cesar Luis Menotti made an unpopular and controversial decision to take Mario Kempes, the experienced attacker, over the young enigma that was Diego Maradona.

Argentina were playing good attractive football with Kempes demolishing defences along the way.  In the second round, however, with Argentina and Brazil on the same number of points, it was down to the last game.  The usual rule is that of the last group games to be played simultaneously to avoid any team having an edge.

Yet, Argentina played their match against Peru after Brazil had played their match against Poland. Argentina now knew they needed to win by 4 clear goals to progress at the expense of their rivals.

Peru collapsed in the second half and Argentina won 6-0 to go through.  Later it was said by the Peru senator that Peru agreed to throw the game for the hosts to progress.

The entire nation was shrouded with controversy which ranged from Mario Kempes' blatant handball on the line against Poland to the match against Peru allegedly being fixed.

Mario Kempes was Argentina’s controversial superstar striker before Diego Maradona stole the show with his brilliance.
Mario Kempes was Argentina’s controversial superstar striker before Diego Maradona stole the show with his brilliance.
(Photo courtesy: Phil Henton on Twitter)

Argentina then went on to face the Netherlands in the finals and beat them 3-1. Mario Kempes bagged the award for the Best Player.

Now onto 1986.

Diego Maradona is a name on the mouth of every football fan around the world.  He is now matured and considered the best player in the world.  Argentina, with the help of Maradona, cruised through the group stages against the likes of Bulgaria, South Korea and Italy.

In the quarterfinals Argentina were up against a brilliant English squad with the likes of Gary Lineker, John Barnes, Glenn Hoddle and Peter Shilton.

It was a dull first half which remained scoreless but the second half started with controversy, again. Diego Maradona had claimed to have headed the ball past Peter Shilton to give Argentina the lead and then scored a superb solo goal to put them 2 goals to the good.

Diego Maradona scored only 5 of Argentina’s 14 goals in the competition, yet had a huge hand in his country’s triumph.
Diego Maradona scored only 5 of Argentina’s 14 goals in the competition, yet had a huge hand in his country’s triumph.
(Photo courtesy: UEFA Champions League on Twitter)

Gary Lineker made it 2-1 late on but it wasn't enough as Argentina prevailed. But that first goal shouldn't have counted.  It had actually come off Maradona's hand. He claimed it was the 'Hand of God' which is disgusting to say the least. Argentina went on to play and win an exciting final against West Germany after seeing off Belgium 2-0 in the semis.

It was an impressive win which might not have happened if it wasn’t for that handball. Not to mention, a lot of other unsportsmanlike conduct from the likes of Diego Maradona himself.

Argentina in the Leo Messi age was thrilling to watch.  They were solid in defence and with the likes of Messi, Di Maria and Higuain up top they had no problem scoring goals. This combination took them to the 2014 FIFA World Cup finals where they eventually lost 1-0 to a Mario Goetze goal. Messi also led them to the 2015 and 2016 Copa America finals where on both occasions they lost on penalties to Chile.

Brazilian football legend Pele is often considered the greatest of all time, and his philanthropic work after retirement has won many admirers.
Brazilian football legend Pele is often considered the greatest of all time, and his philanthropic work after retirement has won many admirers.
(Photo: AP)

There has always been speculation on who the GOAT is. People have said Pele, who won accolades with Brazil in abundance and revolutionised the game. He also has been a fantastic ambassador to the sport.

Ronaldo has a great start to the 2018 FIFA World Cup but was ineffective in his team’s final two games, leading to their exit.
Ronaldo has a great start to the 2018 FIFA World Cup but was ineffective in his team’s final two games, leading to their exit.
(Photo: AP)

They've mentioned Cristiano Ronaldo, who's won a European championship with Portugal in 2016 and won so much more in his club career with Manchester United and Real Madrid. Apart from that he's also constantly doing charity work and doing things like donating blood on a regular basis. Another great ambassador for the sport.

But for the many people who have said that Leo Messi can never be considered better than Maradona as he hasn't won a international trophy, football is about more than that.  It's about the impact you have on millions of people's lives.

As a footballer you want to win trophies, especially with your country but that's not enough.  You are a role model for millions of children who see you play on a regular basis.  They try to mimic what you do and how you lead your life.  Diego Maradona was a disrespectful athlete who resorted to abusing and injuring players when he had an off day.  He constantly got into fights on and off the field and is widely known for his addiction to drugs.

Recently in the game against Nigeria, when Argentina scored their winner, Maradona openly showed both his middle fingers to sections of the crowd.  Messi however wore the red ribbon which was given to him by a reporter who said it was from his mother and that it brought good luck.

Messi is definitely one of the greatest of all time, if not the greatest.  What he’s accomplished goes past what he’s done in the field. And that’s what’s important.

(This is a personal blog and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

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