blogAuthor: michaelcalvin | Filed under: Blog
Pelé or Puskás? Beckenbauer or Beckham? Cruyff or Charlton? Maradona or Messi?
Who is the greatest? An impossible question, but I’ll come clean.
Diego Armando Maradona has been my secret vice since 22 June, 1986.
I was in the Azteca Stadium, Mexico City, watching England’s elimination from the World Cup.
It was ferociously hot. Smog invaded our lungs.
Maradona invaded our senses.
He outraged, with the Hand of God.
He seduced, with the Goal of the Century.
Since then, I’ve been defending the indefensible.
He was a drug abuser, an affront to common decency.
But he’s living proof that true greats shape occasions to their will.
Barcelona’s Lionel Messi faces that challenge at Wembley on Saturday.
Can he turn the Champions League final into a showcase for his genius?
It’s harder for him these days than when fellow Barcelona player Maradona was at his maddest.
Opponents are bigger, quicker, stronger. They are subjugated by coaches who attempt to minimise risk.
Football has evolved into a game of containment. Everything is geared to neutralising individual brilliance.
Messi is mesmeric. The ball is an extension of his personality.
He is only 23, the same number of years it took Pelé to score 1,281 goals in 1,363 games.
It will be a modern miracle if he manages to match those numbers.
Will he ever match Maradona’s magnetism?
In Argentina, the anarchy which swirls around Diego is irresistible.
But different cultures judge people by different standards.
Here’s the deal, Lionel: dominate with Barcelona, and win the World Cup in 2014.
Then, and only then, will you be my latest greatest.