MX23RW : Thursday, December 10 04:54:45| >> :120:16792:16792:

Diego Maradona, Pele, Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo: Who is football's best ever player?

Maradona, Pele, Messi or Ronaldo: Who is football's best ever player?
© Reuters
Diego Maradona's death at the age of 60 has reignited the debate.

Among the grief and adulation expressed after Diego Maradona's death, an age-old debate of who was the game's greatest player has been reignited.

The discussion has been held many times before, and will no doubt be raised on many more occasions in the future, but the loss of the masterful Argentina forward aged just 60 has only intensified his claim to the throne.

In truth it is an impossible task to judge footballers from different eras, playing in different times, with different rules, but the PA news agency's Carl Markham gives his assessment on those who purport to be 'the greatest'.

Diego Maradona (Argentina, Boca Juniors, Barcelona, Napoli)

Big-time hero, small-time villain (unless you were English in the 1980s), Diego Armando Maradona melded fantastical football and a larger-than-life lifestyle to brilliant effect. He was the stand-out player as Argentina won the 1986 World Cup – with a little help from the Hand of God – and his silky skills and driven determination saw him inspire Napoli to the first two Serie A titles in their history and a maiden UEFA Cup victory. Three days' national mourning in his homeland and mass outpourings of grief and celebration on the streets of Naples highlight the esteem in which he was held.

Skill factor: 10

Goal factor: 8

Charisma factor: 9

Legend factor: 10

Final score: 37

Pele (Brazil, Santos, New York Cosmos)

Before Maradona, Pele was the undisputed greatest in most people's eyes. A winner of three World Cups – the first in 1958 when he scored six goals in four games aged just 17 – his individual skill and eye for goal was unrivalled but he also benefited from playing in some of the best international sides in history. He won six league titles and two Copa Libertadores with Santos.

Skill factor: 9

Goal factor: 10

Charisma factor: 7

Legend factor: 10

Final score: 36

Lionel Messi (Argentina, Barcelona)

Lionel Messi is Argentina's second great superstar after Diego Maradona
Lionel Messi is Argentina's second great superstar after Diego Maradona (Owen Humphreys/PA)

Maradona's heir-apparent, Messi has yet to hit the levels of adulation in his homeland – due to the fact he has yet to significantly influence Argentina's fortunes on the world stage and impose his will on the team the way his predecessor did. His Barcelona achievements (10 league and four Champions League titles) are a different story, where he has set new standards with a consistent level of genius previously not seen in European football.

Skill factor: 10

Goal factor: 10

Charisma factor: 6

Legend factor: 9

Final score: 35

Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal, Sporting Lisbon, Manchester United, Real Madrid, Juventus)

Cristiano Ronaldo elevated his status with an incredible spell at Real Madrid
Cristiano Ronaldo elevated his status with an incredible spell at Real Madrid (David Davies/PA)

Messi's great contemporary rival, their comparison is probably the easiest as for nine seasons they played in the same league at comparable clubs. Ronaldo won four Champions League and two LaLiga titles with Real, having arrived with three Premier League winners' medals, and now has two Serie A titles. He became a goalscoring phenomenon at the Bernabeu and is one of the world's most recognisable sportsmen.

Skill factor: 9

Goal factor: 10

Charisma factor: 7

Legend factor: 9

Final score: 35

Alberto di Stefano (Spain, River Plate, Millonarios, Real Madrid, Espanyol)

Probably the first football superstar, the Argentina-born forward was skilful, hugely prolific, creative and tactically versatile. After 12 years playing in his homeland and Colombia, his move to Real transformed them into a European super power. He scored in each of their five successive European Cup victories and single-handedly drove them to their first league triumph in 20 years in his first season at the club, one of eight he would win at the Bernabeu in addition to his two Ballons d'Or.

Skill factor: 9

Goal factor: 10

Charisma factor: 6

Legend factor: 9

Final score: 34

Johan Cruyff (Holland, Ajax, Barcelona, Feyenoord)

Johan Cruyff was the orchestrator of Total Football
Johan Cruyff was the orchestrator of Total Football (PA)

Not the architect but the orchestrator of Total Football, developed at Ajax and transferred to the national team. Supremely effective and hugely prolific at Ajax, where he won three European Cups, eight league titles and, individually, three Ballons d'Or. He won a league title with Barcelona, where his lasting legacy was to come in the brand of football they played with him going on to manage the club and become one of the most influential people in football.

Skill factor: 8

Goal factor: 8

Charisma factor: 8

Legend factor: 9

Final score: 33

Ronaldo (Brazil, Cruzeiro, PSV, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Real Madrid, AC Milan, Corinthians)

Ronaldo was a brilliant goalscorer
Ronaldo was a brilliant goalscorer (Owen Humphreys/PA)

The other Brazilian to make it to the top of the all-time greats list, Ronaldo at his peak was a goalscoring machine but with the talented touch of a boy who had grown up playing on the streets of Rio de Janeiro. He featured for some of Europe's top clubs, winning trophies with all of them, won two World Cups and by the age of 23 had scored more than 200 goals for club and country, although serious knee injuries blighted his later career.

Skill factor: 8

Goal factor: 9

Charisma factor: 7

Legend factor: 7

Final score: 31

ID:423852:cQx
Share this article now:
Did you know...?
Argentina's Diego Maradona lifts the World Cup trophy after helping his team to the 1986 title
Read Next:
Football legend Diego Maradona dies aged 60
>
Latest Sports Video
Sports Mole Logo
Enter your email address to subscribe to Sports Mole's free daily transfer newsletter! Sent twice a day during the transfer window.

rhs 2.0
Todays Game Header Right
Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Atletico MadridAtletico108202121926
2Real Sociedad127412251725
3Villarreal125611511421
4Real Madrid116231712520
5CadizCadiz125341113-218
6Sevilla10514129316
7Granada114341420-615
8Real Betis125071423-915
9Barcelona104242011914
10ElcheElche10352910-114
11EibarEibar1235489-114
12AlavesAlaves123541113-214
13Celta Vigo123451320-713
14Getafe11344913-413
15Valencia123451717013
16Athletic Bilbao114161212013
17Levante112541315-211
18Osasuna11326815-711
19Real Valladolid122461118-710
20Huesca120841120-98

Subscribe to our Newsletter


Transfer Talk Daily
Match previews - twice weekly
Morning Briefing (7am UTC)
Ultra close-up image of Kevin De Bruyne [NOT FOR USE IN ARTICLES]Get the latest transfer news, match previews and news direct to your inbox!