Maradona, Pele or Messi - who’s the greatest?

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9th Dec 2022 Sport

Maradona, Pele or Messi - who’s the greatest?

The ongoing World Cup in Qatar has already produced plenty of drama and there are likely to be many more as the rest of the tournament unfolds.

Lionel Messi’s bid to lift the trophy for the first time is one of the most intriguing storylines and the Argentinian maestro is on track to fulfil his dream.

He was one of his team’s top performers during the group stage, before stepping things up in the last 16 game against Australia over the weekend.

Messi netted the opening goal for Argentina in a 2-1 victory and he will be integral to their hopes of defeating Netherlands in the quarter-finals.

Winning the World Cup would be the icing on the cake for Messi and would probably end the debate about which footballer is the greatest of all-time (G.O.A.T.).

With that in mind, we look at how Messi stacks up against two former players who were fortunate enough to get their hands on the prestigious trophy.

Diego Maradona

Diego Maradona’s efforts for Napoli and Argentina are etched into footballing folklore and he is firmly in the conversation to be called the G.O.A.T.

A recent study by Betway Insider featuring real goats determined that Maradona is the greatest, although it is fair to say the light-hearted methodology lacked substance!

However, when it comes to assessing where Maradona lies in the pecking order, his performances at the 1986 World Cup are often cited as proof that he is the number one.

Maradona was brilliant throughout the tournament in Mexico, netting five goals and five assists as Argentina claimed their second World Cup success.


Before Maradona arrived on the scene, Pele was widely viewed as the undisputed G.O.A.T. by football fans across the world.

He burst onto the international scene as a teenager at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden, bagging six goals in four appearances as Brazil claimed the trophy.

Pele ended his career with three World Cup wins on his CV and a final goal tally at club level that is still debated by football statisticians today.

His failure to test himself in Europe is seen as a black mark against his G.O.A.T claims, although that argument is churlish given what he achieved during his career.

Lionel Messi

Messi rewrote the record books during his time with Barcelona, helping the club win a ton of silverware at home and in Europe.

His tally of 11 domestic league titles is more than Pele and Maradona won between them, while four Champions League successes further highlight his impact.

However, Messi has suffered several disappointments with Argentina at international level, although he did help them win the 2021 Copa America title.

Messi came close to winning the World Cup in 2014 when Argentina finished runners-up and he will be desperate to break his duck this time around.

The final word

Choosing who is the best between Maradona, Pele and Messi is an exercise in futility given what each of them has achieved during their respective careers.

However, if Messi can add his name to the World Cup roll of honour this year, we may finally have a definitive answer to the G.O.A.T. debate.

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