Who is the greatest player of all time?

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The term 'great' is used regularly but it is not often applicable, particularly in the footballing world.

At the moment we are truly blessed to have two of the greatest ever footballers playing in the same era. Lionel Messi could lay claim to be the greatest footballer of all time with Cristiano Ronaldo not too far behind him.

But what makes us categorise players as great? Is it their influence and success at international level or the impact they have on the clubs that they play for? 

Ronaldo and Messi have not made major impacts with their countries and have not won a World Cup with them either, but their footballing skills, prolific goalscoring and undoubted box office pull cannot be doubted. They are both plying their trade at two of the best teams in world football in arguably the best league in the world.

In England, we tend to build our players up and then knock them down again. How many greats have we really produced over recent decades? If we simply base our judgements on success at international level then we can look no further than the likes of Bobby Moore and Geoff Hurst. Some may argue that Paul Gascoigne was a great player and others may argue that he could have developed into a great only if injury and off-field issues hadn't affected his career so badly. We will never know what impact he could have had on England and world football.

More recent England players such as David Beckham, Steven Gerrard and Ashley Cole could be classed as greats. They have all achieved 100 international caps and have served their respective clubs well for a number of years. How about players such as Ryan Giggs and George Best? They performed for Manchester United at the highest level, winning trophies and producing scintillating performances over a number of years. Yet they were both denied the chance to flaunt their skills on the international stage regularly with Wales and Northern Ireland respectively. However, Manchester United fans are clear in the fact that they are greats to them.

If we class players as great for performances at the World Cup, then Maradona and Pele are the greatest because they won the competition for their countries almost single-handedly, with some great individual performances at more than one tournament.

To supporters of teams with a less than rich history of success, our perceptions of greatness are more mediocre. Being a Sheffield Wednesday supporter I class the likes of Chris Waddle, John Sheridan and David Hirst as greats because they were part of a successful early 1990s team which I grew up watching.

In truth it is a category which is very hard to quantify and is a lot to do with personal perception. It is certainly a debate that can run and run. We all have our own idea of footballing greatness, but which player is your favourite?


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