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Old 20-04-2010, 17:48   #42
dev1L
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Blog: Not as great as Diego

Lionel Messi is a great footballer but Serie A had better when Diego Maradona was at the top of his game, says Dave Taylor

Inter’s Samuel Eto’o may hail Leo Messi as “a God of football” and there’s no doubt that he is awesome, but anyone who claims he is the best ever never watched Italian football in the 1980s.

After experiencing Diego Armando Maradona for several years, it’s patently ridiculous to put the Barcelona ace on the same pedestal as Il Pibe. I am not saying Messi’s recent display against Arsenal was not superb, but he will have to go a long way to beat some of the arcane skills the 'real' God practiced.

One particular game at the San Paolo will never leave me and showed beyond doubt that Il Pibe was not from this planet.

I was sitting near the halfway line when ‘keeper Claudio Garella found Diego, who was hugging the left flank almost level with me. Momentarily looking over his shoulder, he permitted the ball to fall on his right Achilles heel, before flicking it up over his head on to his knee.

He then pumped it over the head of an incoming defender, swiveled round him, caught the ball on its way back down and volleyed it over to a teammate running through the middle. Breathtakingly it all happened in one magical movement lasting a couple of seconds.

Without pausing he carried on, collected the return and slammed an unstoppable sledgehammer into the top corner from the edge of the box. Supernatural, beyond football, beyond compare, the ultimate artist.

He showed the city of Naples and me on that and many other occasions nothing is impossible in life and Messi doesn’t offer that. Diego exemplified the ability to succeed – no matter the obstacle you can achieve something.

One must also consider that Messi is not facing assassins like Inter’s Beppe Bergomi, Milan’s Franco Baresi or Diego’s own nemesis from Spain, the ‘Butcher of Bilbao’ Andoni Goicoechea, on a weekly basis.

Yet despite these ‘killers’ it truly was a football Valhalla at that time in Italy. Every Sunday legends like Marco Van Basten, Lothar Matthaus, Socrates, Roberto Baggio, Zico, Ruud Gullit, Michel Platini, Giuseppe Giannini, Giancarlo Antognoni and many, many others were at the very height of their powers.

All of them could claim to this ridiculous title of finest footballer ever, but every era has had its greatest player and it is impossible to compare one with another. And, anyway, nobody will ever be as special as Maradona and even Messi will agree with me on that.
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