In Diego Maradona’s world, he’s still number one.
Asked by CNN anchor Becky Anderson to pick between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as to who is the world’s top footballer, Argentina’s former World Cup winner emphatically endorsed the Barcelona star – but quickly worked himself into the conversation.
“The thing is, my goals were more beautiful,” insisted Maradona.
However, even Maradona, who led Argentina to victory over West Germany in the 1986 World Cup final, was forced to concede the 27-year-old Messi is trumping him in the goalscoring stakes.
Messi is “killing it with his goals,” admitted the 54-year-old – a nod to Messi’s prolific career scoring record of 328 and counting for Barcelona and Argentina, far outweighing Maradona’s own tally of 293 for club and country.
Messi’s tally includes 53 goals scored so far this season, including two in a 3-0 drubbing over Bayern Munich last week in the first leg of their European Champions League tie. Barcelona advanced to the final on Tuesday with a 5-3 aggregate score after the away leg.
Messi’s performances in those two games prompted Bayern’s coach Pep Guardiola to describe the diminutive forward as “the best player of all time.”
Both Messi and Maradona were often the smallest men on the pitch and each wore the blue and white stripes of their country along with the unmistakable maroon of the famous Catalan club.
Quizzed as whether it is Messi’s goals or his style that make him great, Maradona offered a compromise: Messi might be scoring more goals, but it’s the former Napoli star who had more flair.
“I think that I had my own style from the very beginning,” said the man famously known for his “Hand of God” goal against England in the 1986 World Cup. “And that is the point in which I could be better than Messi.”
According to Maradona, Messi is still “finding his own style,” adding: “Most likely he will find it very soon.”
Maradona coached Messi at the 2010 World Cup but his contract was not renewed following Argentina’s 4-0 quarterfinal defeat to Germany.
Three years ago, Maradona was sacked by United Arab Emirates club Al-Wasl after only 14 months in charge.
He arrived in Dubai on a lucrative contract in May 2011, but could only manage to take Al-Wasl to eighth place in the 12-team UAE Pro-League – which resulted in the club’s board resigning.
Maradona was not given the chance to continue his two-year tenure by the new board.
He is one of the greatest players in soccer history, having helped Napoli win two Italian league titles after a difficult two-year stay at Barcelona – both clubs signed him for world-record fees.
But his career was marred by controversy over drug use – he was thrown out of the 1994 World Cup after testing positive for ephedrine – and he suffered from subsequent health problems.
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