Diego Maradona vs Lionel Messi: Sir Alex Ferguson’s thoughts on the eternal debate

  • Rob Swan

Following the passing of Diego Maradona earlier this week, football fans are once again debating where the legendary Argentine sits among the pantheon of all-time greats.

Many believe Maradona, who inspired Argentina to glory at the 1986 World Cup, is the greatest footballer of all time.

Others side with Pele, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and so on.

But there’s no doubt that Maradona - a hero in the city of Naples thanks to his extraordinary achievements with Napoli in the late 1980s and early 90s - is part of the conversation.

Football fans never thought they’d ever see an Argentine footballer as good as Maradona in their lifetimes, but then Messi came along in the mid-2000s.


While Messi has been unable to match Maradona’s achievements on the international stage, the six-time Ballon d’Or winner has achieved far more on the club scene.

But the debate over which of the two geniuses is the greatest Argentine footballer is likely to rumble on for many years to come.

However, in the eyes of Sir Alex Ferguson - arguably the greatest coach in football history - there is a winner.


When Hugh McIlvanney passed away in 2019, it was revealed that the legendary sportswriter was firmly of the belief that Maradona was better than Messi.

Graeme Souness, however, disagreed with this opinion - despite the fact he played against Maradona on numerous occasions.

The Times’ Jonathan Northcroft wrote in January 2019: “With rising intensity Hugh and Graeme Souness debated whether Lionel Messi (Souness’s call) is greater than Diego Maradona (Hugh’s).

“An exasperated Souness had to finally beseech: ‘Look, I played against Maradona five times and I’m telling you — Messi.’ Hugh growled back: ‘I don’t care who you played against. It’s Diego.’”

Ferguson was informed of their heated debate, and agreed with Souness.

Northcroft added: “Told of this, ‘I would side with Souness on that one,’ says Ferguson.

‘Maradona’s career at the very top was only a few years.’”



Ferguson believes that Messi’s remarkable longevity gives him the edge over his legendary compatriot.

Both Ferguson and Souness saw Messi and Maradona at their respective peaks, and they obviously know their football, so it’s fascinating that they are in agreement on this particular issue.


Of course, plenty of others will argue that Maradona was the better player, after winning the World Cup with Argentina and inspiring an unfashionable Napoli side to two Serie A titles.

But Messi has managed to surpass El Diego in the eyes of the Manchester United legend.

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