I truly do believe that we are watching the greatest player in the history of the game (if he continues at this pace). Even though he didn't score in the World Cup, he was Argentina's best player and he didn't have a "shit" World Cup like so many people claim.
One of the greatest but not quite the greatest. Not alot in it but that mantle still belongs to Maradona.
We're talking about 2 completely different era's & Messi is fantastic but he plays in probably the greatest club side of any era - surrounded by world class players - basically he's the cherry on top of an already amazing cake.
Everything is in place to help Messi maximise and make the most of his immense talent.
Plays in a league contested by only 2 teams who can pretty much buy the best talent home & abroad so he'll always
be playing with the best.
Benefits from modern sports science in terms of physical conditioning, training techniques, nutrition, physio/surgical techniques as well as medical expertise (in his case - growth hormone when he was young) - footballers really are finely tuned athletes these days.
Plays on near perfect modern day pitches in an era when forwards are protected alot more than they were in the past.
Maradona played during an era when alot of this stuff was far less developed & in teams which weren't on the same level as todays Barca.
The laws of the game allowed for alot more physical contact and 'robust' tackling (bordering on assault) where butchers passed for defenders. (Maradona holds the record for suffering the most number of fouls in a World Cup – 53, during the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.
He also holds the record for the most number of fouls suffered in one game in a World Cup, when Italy fouled him 23 times in the 1982 edition of the tournament.)
He enjoyed an active & varied.....ahem...'social life'
and still produced consistently at the very highest level.
Would Messi have shone as much in Maradona's era ? Or vice versa ?
IMO - yes in both instances although i believe Messi would have found it more difficult while Maradona would find it easier.
Ability wise I think :
- they're on a par when it comes to dribbling, ball control & retention
- on a par when it comes to unlocking a defence with a through ball or quick exchange of passes
- both have the ability to finish in or around the box (Messi will
finish with a higher goals tally)
- Messi has the edge when it comes to speed (although Diego didn't rely on speed as much as Messi)
- Maradona has the edge when it comes to strength (although Messi can deal pretty well with the rough stuff dished out to him)
The difference between the 2 of them is something else. Their presence and its effect on their team mates & the fans.
Take Messi out of the Barca line up and they're still formidable.
If you took Maradona out of the 86/90/94 Argentina team or the club teams he played for they'd have been pretty mediocre.
In a book on Maradona in 1997, Argentinian psychologist and author Gustavo Bernstein noted: “Maradona is our maximum term of reference. No one embodies our essence better. No one bears our emblem more nobly. To no other, in the last twenty years, have we offered up so much passion. Argentina is Maradona, Maradona is Argentina.”
For me, if Messi is to take Diego's crown then he will need to really shine at the next couple of world cups but I'd also like to see him play in a strong Serie A (although thats not likely to happen). No-one will be more worthy of the accolade - it seems he's hitting his peak and will be about the same age at the next world cup as Maradona was in Mexico. In the modern game he is the role model I'd choose for my son.
Personally, Maradona will always be my favourite.
On the piss every night, shagging non stop, hanging out & smoking cigars with Mafioso, consuming drugs like there's no tomorrow. All with an attitude that said fuck you - I'll still turn up and be the best player on the park. And he was......