Maradona: What Other Legends Say

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Oliver Dawnay

The divisive and controversial nature of Maradona has often led to criticism throughout his life, but many believe it made him an enigma, essential to his character.

He will always remain the prodigal son in Argentina, a man who rose from humble beginnings to become a global superstar.

And his friends, foes, coaches and distant admirers were certainly enamoured with the incredible talents he possessed on a football pitch. And we’ve taken a look at their views below…

Eric Cantona

Manchester United legend Cantona said Maradona’s ability to guide his own country to glory in the World Cup on his own is what makes him standout as a cut above the rest.

“Some say Pele was the greatest player of all time, but not me. Maradona will always be the greatest,” the Frenchman said. “He won World Cup in 1986, narrowly lost in the final in 1990 and then in 1994 maybe would have won it again had he not been banned.

“The crucial difference with Pele is that Maradona wasn’t surrounded by great players; he had to carry the team himself. If you took Maradona out of Argentina they would not win the World Cup, but I think Brazil without Pele would still have won.”

Zinedine Zidane

Legendary France midfielder Zidane, who, like Maradona, steered his nation to a World Cup in 1998, was in awe of the Argentine’s talents.

“He left his mark on me, on my mind, especially in 1986 because he was sensational at that time,” he said. “It’s really at that moment that I became aware of the player he was, making differences as he did.

“He won games single-handedly. That’s the extra thing he had over the other players. In 1986, he was on another level.”

Ronaldinho

Even the great Brazil and Barcelona icon Ronaldinho, one of the most skilful players of his generation, was shocked at Maradona’s sublime technique.

“Diego Maradona was special. I always enjoyed watching him, including everything he did even before the matches,” he said.

“He was the most playful; the one I liked the most in that sense of playing with the ball. Maradona could dribble at speed towards the goal. He had such a different technique from everyone else.”

Lionel Messi

Many believe Messi has eclipsed his talent, but the Barcelona man often says his idol Maradona is the best player in history.

”Even if I played for a million years, I’d never come close to Maradona,” he said. “Not that I’d want to anyway. He’s the greatest there’s ever been

Ryan Giggs

The Manchester United icon, who played alongside Cristiano Ronaldo, says Maradona did things that no other player has done.

“The best of all time? Maradona,” he said. “I admired him in the World Cups of 1986 and 1990 and the arc of his career.

“Today there are so many strong players such as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, but the things I have seen Maradona do I have not ever seen anyone else achieve in football history.”

Wayne Rooney

“He’s definitely the best player there’s ever been in my eyes. He had pace, great skill and an unbelievable desire to win.”

Glenn Hoddle

“For Maradona to win a World Cup on his own, and let’s face it, that’s what he did as the rest of the team were ordinary, was an amazing achievement. He was the best player I’ve seen.”

Sir Bobby Robson

“A genius, a real artist, one of the greatest players in the world. He could win a match on his own. On his own.”

Jose Mourinho

“With him on the ball, you didn’t know where he finished and where the ball started.”

Ruud Gullit

“The best player there has ever been, better than Pele. I watched him closely in Italy every week and he was at a different level to everyone else.

“Some of the things he did were unbelievable. He could control the ball without looking, which meant if the pass was on, he would take it.”

Gary Lineker

Lineker couldn’t believe his eyes when Maradona stunned the world with his solo goal against England at the World Cup in 1986.

“He was head and shoulders above everyone else I’ve ever seen. I once played in a Rest of the World game, and Maradona was out on the pitch doing these tricks and all these great players – Zico, Platini, Elkjaer – were standing there with their mouths open.

“When Diego scored that second goal against us, I felt like applauding. I’d never felt like that before, but it’s true… and not just because it was such an important game. It was impossible to score such a beautiful goal. He’s the greatest player of all time, by a long way. A genuine phenomenon.”

Paolo Maldini

“The greatest player I’ve ever seen, way ahead of everyone else, including (Michel) Platini, (Karl-Heinz) Rummenigge and the rest. Maradona was a cut above.”

Pep Guardiola

“For my generation, Maradona is the greatest player we’ve seen and I don’t believe that will ever change.”

Fabio Cannavaro

World Cup-winning Italy captain Cannavaro admits he adored Maradona growing up a Napoli fan.

He said: “Maradona is a god to the people of Naples. Maradona changed history. In 80 years, we had always suffered, fighting against relegation, yet in seven seasons with him we won two leagues, a UEFA Cup, two Italian Cups.

“I’m a fan too and to live those years with Maradona was incredible. Being on the pitch when they won the Scudetto was amazing.” - talkSPORT

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