Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Lionel Messi better than Diego Maradona: No way

I'm simply exasperated to read the headlines in many dailies: " Is Lionel Messi (Argentina, Barcelona) greater than his mentor Diego Maradona?," following Barcelona's superb performance (3-1 triumph over Manchester United) in the Champions League Final. Messi is indeed an astounding footballer and seeing him on song is a sight to behold.


But we're all forgetting a simple but most crucial thing that he performed at a club-level championship, however great or popular it may be. Did he perform equally well on the highest podium of the game: The Soccer World Cup? A player's greatness is assessed by his/ her excellence and exploits at the game's greatest event. Because that requires skills, temparament and attitude. The history of sports is teeming with the examples of immensely talented players doing so well at all the stages, barring the highest and the ultimate form of it.

Readers might have heard of the Zimbabwe-born Greame Hick, who scored more than 50 hundreds in English county cricket before the age of 24. He still holds the world record. Even Bradman, Sir Gary, Jack Hobbs and Barry Richards weren't so phenomenal at that age. So great was Hick's batsmanship that rules were relaxed to enable him to play for England. The same Hick never lived up to his boundless potential and Waqar Yunus and Wasim Akram expedited the end of his test career by their reverse swing and toe-crushing yorkers. Mind you, these very bowlers were at the receiving ends against Hick while playing for different counties in England. Wickets were same, opponents were same, weather was same and the level of English county cricket till 2004 was on a par with test cricket.
 But, Hick could never excel at the highest level against the very same opponents. It's the temparament of a player that determines his/ her greatness. Very many 'greats' falter and fumble when they're required to showcase their skills when it matters the most. Why Pele, Maradona, Garincha (Brazil), Platini, Al-Stepheno, Sir Gary and Sir Don became so great. Because they all performed so well, at the highest level.

Pele's stupendous performance in the World Cup matches eclipsed his amazing skills at the fiercely competitive level of club soccer for world's most prestigious clubs comprising the very great soccer players. Likewise, Maradona also played for world's greatest clubs and single-handedly defeated other teams, but what remains etched in the mind was his magical performance in the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, where in one match, he scythed through the opponents to score a maginficent goal. 


Leaving aside his 'hand of god' goal, it was 'Maverick Argentinian' all the way in 1986 World Cup. To cut the matter short, Messi may be a very very exciting soccer player, but his performance at the World Cup still remains to be seen to call him better than Diego or at least on an even keel with the legendary Argentinian.      
           
                                          ------Sumit Paul



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