Sunday, October 11, 2009

Diego Armando Maradona

The question of who is the greatest footballer of all time is one that has occupied, and will continue to occupy, the minds of football fans for many decades. Two players, from two different eras of the game, usually end up at the top of most people's lists as arguably the best in the history of football with apparently very little to choose between them: Pele and Maradona. And, indeed, a good case can be made for either man.

But for me personally (and the tautology is quite deliberate) Maradona, and not Pele, is the greatest player ever to have played the game of football. Why? Well, before I discuss what puts Maradona at the head of this two-man class, let me deal with the similarities between the two players. Both wore the number 10 jersey, which traditionally denotes the role of playmaker, and both were the finest exponents of the playmaker's art and science. Both were iconic talismen for club and country, frequently looked to produce moments of divinity--and neither man disappointed in that respect. Both had an unmistakable presence on the field and both were supremely gifted and accomplished footballing athletes. Both won major championships with (or in Maradona's for) their club and national teams. And both were universally acknowledged to be the greatest players of their respective generations.

So much for the similarities. Why do I unequivocally--and not arguably--put Maradona above Pele? In a word: passion. I do not know of any great (or good) footballer who has played the game with more passion, more heart, more drive, more determination, or more sheer will to win than Diego Armando Maradona. And in this department, Maradona is streets ahead of Pele.

That passion was on display again yesterday when Argentina (now managed by Maradona) sensationally won a crucial World Cup qualifier against Peru with a stoppage time goal from Martin Palermo, a 35-year-old player brought back (resurrected?) by Maradona after a 10 year absence from the national team. Enough said. Watch:

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