Football

Who is the greatest: Andres Iniesta v Zinedine Zidane

Has the protege now surpassed the master? (© Getty Images)
Has the protege now surpassed the master? (© Getty Images).

"He is the enlightened one. Someone touched by a magic wand," Real Madrid's Sergio Ramos once said of one of his favourite ever players. 

"He commands so much respect on the pitch. As a football lover I am proud to have played with him. He makes the difference and does things that no one else can do."

But is it Andres Iniesta or Zinedine Zidane the Spanish defender is waxing lyrical about? 

For too many years now the debate over who is better, Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, has rumbled on without any conclusion in sight - but it appears as though there is a new argument in town, one for football fans the world over to sink their teeth into.

Sky Sport's journalist Guillem Balague put forward his opinion this week that Barcelona’s Andres Iniesta is now a better player than the great master Zinedine Zidane. The Spaniard donned his tin hat only to find that his article was met largely with agreeable nods of encouragment. 

So has the Spaniard surpassed the graceful Zizou in the list of the greatest players of all time? At face value, it is hard to argue against that suggestion.

Iniesta has three Champions League winners medals to his name compared to Zidane's one, and the Spaniard has already earned five league titles to his rival's three. 

Both have won a World Cup each, while Iniesta has been part of two successful European Championship campaigns to Zidane's one.

Of course, it is at this point that most people point out that Iniesta just so happens to be part of what many consider the greatest team of all time.  Which is a fair comment, even it does ignore the fact that Zidane formed part of one of the most richly-assembled squads in football history.

Trophies tend to warp opinions when it comes to deciding just who is the better player anyway; something so subjective of course requires a certain amount of quantification but that is not the answer.

Some tend to look for what most term 'big game players'  - and that is an area in which these two are evenly matched.

thatBoth have scored in a World Cup final, and while Zidane has graced a Champions League final with his mastery, Iniesta came to the fore with a goal of the utmost importance against Chelsea in Champions League semi-final in 2009. There is little to set them apart in that respect.

So if you can't  separate them on achievement alone, how can you tell who is the best?  If nothing else, it is an interesting comparison to make; two men considered to be the best in the "second tier" of greatest players. Great, greater than all but a few, but not the greatest.

Equally both men are emblems for their clubs or in Zidane's case his former club. Few men embody Barcelona's style and panache like Iniesta while Zidane will surely be considered Real Madrid's greatest ever Galactico when club president Florentino Perez president finally decides to give his tired old cheque book a well-earned rest.

If both men represent qualities of their respective clubs then both have markedly different qualities as men; one brimming with Gallic flair and artisan tendencies, the other an unassuming genius willing to spread the praise around. It's difficult to imagine Iniesta signing off his career with a red card in a World Cup final.

Ultimately a debate between two wonderful footballers should boil down not to who has won more or who has the more attractive personality, but which one makes you feel the most, something only an indivifual can decide if they must.

Both Iniesta and Zidane are/were capable of genuine, breath-taking genius, of subtlety and beauty rarely seen on a patch of grass.

Both possess grace and artistry - but in different ways.  Zidane didn't move as much as glide. His movement blurred into one - no jarring stops or flailing limbs, he moved at his own speed which seemed paradoxically slow yet too fast for a bewildered opponent.

Iniesta, with his low centre of gravity and deft half-touches also plays the game at different pace; at times he is playing a different game altogether. Quicker and busier than Zidane, but no less wondrous to set your eyes upon. 

While a debate between two players as popular as Iniesta and Zidane is likely to be lively, the truth is that there is no real separating them in terms of ability, just as it is impossible to label either one superior to Johan Cruyff or Michel Platini, say. 

How can you separate two players who bring such unbridled joy on the pitch, two players who make football such fun to watch by doing things other mere mortals can dream of?

It is the true definition of folly and would only detract from the beauty of the game. Both men are there to be enjoyed, not pitted against one another in a dog fight. 

As with Messi and Ronaldo, enjoy Iniesta while he is still here and weaving his magic, he won’t be around forever. If what Pep Guardiola said of Lionel Messi - “don’t write about him, watch him” - is true, then it is equally appropriate for Iniesta.

What is worth noting, however, is that it is a debate taking place during a time in which Iniesta is at the peak of his career and still winning trophies. 

Even with the dewy-eyed nostalgia attached to former players where bad performances are washed away and consigned to the rubbish bin, Iniesta is generally considered Zidane’s equal.

And, if it makes any difference, Ramos was talking about Iniesta. As a player who has seen both up close, he is in a pretty good position to judge. Now debate away but be kind, two players who conjure so much sweet joy deserve to be referred to in only the most glowing of terms.

Topics:
European News
Football

Article Comments

Trending

Read more