Lionel Messi & Diego Maradona: Who is the greatest?

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There have been many impressive footballers that have graced the turf.

They have had songs written about them, their likeness inked on skin and babies named after. The likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane, Pele, George Best, Roberto Baggio, the other Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Kaka are and/or were once worth the entry fee alone.

However, there are two giants of the game, both hailing from the same country, that could potentially have the strongest claim for the greatest of all time.

The Argentinian legend that is Diego Maradona and his disciple in the modern game, Lionel Messi. It could be argued that these two maestros are a step above all of the other classic players of the beautiful game.

Just as the neverending debate between the greatest of the modern day, Messi and Ronaldo, these two players must fight on their own terms with a legacy to stand by and a modern day record-breaking cycle in full swing.

In light of Argentina's recent defeat at the hands of exciting and newly-feared Chile in the Copa America final last week, it seems fitting to assess the international careers of each player.

Mixed bags

Messi has experienced a mixed bag when it comes to serving his country. Often jeered for his ineffective displays that don't echo his scintillating form for Barcelona in La Liga, the current captain of Argentina has failed to deliver silverware in two finals in the last two summers.

With this in mind, it could be suggested Messi, whilst obviously an unbelievable sportsman, does not possess the talismanic traits of his predecessor.

Maradona was a player who personified a vintage Wolrd Cup: Mexico '86. In that year, the short and nippy leader won World Player of the Year, and claimed the ultimate prize for his country, the World Cup.

As many readers of GiveMeSport will know all too well, in seeking this trophy, he dumped England out of the competition, with the helping "Hand of God" and his sensational mazy dribble that took him past a total of five dizzying Englishmen before dispatching a lethal finish, a goal that was later named FIFA goal of the century in 2002.

In this tournament, he practically single-handedly won the tournament. He was untouchable. What is more, Messi also has the likes of Gonzalo Higuain, Angel di Maria, Javier Mascherano, Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez to feed him, a talent pool that was nowhere near Maradona back in the '80s.

"Diego was capable of things no one else could match. The things I could do with a football, he could do with an orange."  - Michel Platini


In terms of statistics at this level, the two magicians are fairly tight. Maradona weighs in with an impressive 34 goals in 91 appearances in the famous blue and white stripes, whereas Messi's current record stands at 46 in 103 appearances. 

On a club level, Lionel Messi has absolutely smashed through almost every record imaginable, such as most goals scored in a calendar year, a mere 96 in 2012. At Barcelona, Messi is hero worshipped, he is on another planet.

His tallies of 286 goals in 315 games at the top level for the Catalans speaks for itself. Messi is still only 28 years of age, and could quite easily continue raising the bar higher up into the stratosphere. He has one the Ballon d'Or three times and now has four Champions League titles on his mantlepiece.

"For me, to watch Messi play is a pleasure – it’s like having an orgasm – it’s an incredible pleasure." - Luis Figo

Maradona had a club career very much like his personality: erratic. Brilliant, but erratic. Spells as Barcelona, Sampdoria and Boca Juniors were successful, particularly as he helped Sampdoria to their first ever Serie A title in the 1986/7 season.

The conclusion

It is clear that these two players are very much within the tapestry of the footballing Gods, but the definitive answer seems unclear.

Factors such as training facilities, playing surfaces and management will always be thrown into the mix, yet it still seems an impossible call.

Help us find the answer to this tricky debate, leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Lionel Messi
Argentina Football

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