Comparisons can be a pain in the backside. My dad says that nobody was ever better than Tom Finney or Puskas, my older brother says George Best and Pele have no equals, I believe Maradona to be the best ever and my son says that Cristiano Ronaldo has more than the lot of them put together.
It has always been this way. We always think that the top players of ‘our generation’ are the best of all time. It is impossible to compare these great players because they are all from a different place and time. Of course George Best wouldn’t be as quick, as fit or strong enough to play in today’s Premiership and Ronaldo would have been even more of a phenomenon than he is now if you transported him back thirty or forty years.
You can only judge them by how good they were amongst their contemporaries. It is no good listening to anecdotal evidence because the fans of each player will only tell you why their particular favourite is the best of all time. The only way to judge this fairly is to look at the facts and figures. So let’s do it:
Domestic League games – 605
Domestic League goals – 589
International Club games – 18
International Club goals – 24
Best scoring season – 47 in 40 games 1959
International caps (Brazil) – 92
International goals – 77
3 World Cup winners medals. (Didn’t play in 1962 final through injury but was awarded a medal some years later)
19 Domestic club honours.
Named footballer of the century by FIFA. (Voted for by panel of experts. Maradona won an online public poll)
Named athlete of the century by the International Olympic Committee.
Manchester United 1963-1974
Domestic League games – 361
Domestic League goals – 137
International Club games – 34
International Club goals – 11
Best scoring season – 32 in 52 games 1968
International caps (N Ireland) – 37
International goals – 9
European Cup winner.
2 Domestic club honours.
European Footballer of the Year.
Football Writers Player of the Year.
English football Hall of Fame.
George Best’s brilliance
Boca Juniors, Barcelona, Napoli 1981-1991
Domestic League games – 357
Domestic League goals – 181
International Club games – 32
International Club goals – 13
Best scoring season – 21 in 39 games 1988
International caps (Argentina) – 91
International goals – 34
World Cup winner
UEFA Cup winner
8 Domestic club honours
World Player of the Year
Named footballer of the century by an online poll. (Pele won the award as given by a panel of experts)
South American Footballer of the Year x 5
Diego Maradona’s brilliance
Manchester United 2003 – present
Domestic League games – 157
Domestic League goals – 61
International Club games – 43
International Club goals – 11
Best scoring season – 36 in 39 games 2008 so far
International caps (Portugal) – 54
International goals – 20
3 Domestic Club honours
Selected in FIFpro World XI
Selected in UEFA Team of the Year x 2
UEFA 2004 Team of the tournament
PFA Young Player of the Year x 2
PFA Footballer of the Year
Portuguese Footballer of the Year
Cristiano Ronaldo’s brilliance
So there we have the stats. What do we make of them? If you need some more help let’s look at what other people think of them and in some cases, what they think of themselves.
“Comparing Paul Gascoigne to Pele is like comparing Rolf Harris to Rembrandt” — Rodney Marsh.
“For 20 years they have been asking me the same question, who is the greatest? Maradona or Pele? I reply that all you have to do is look at the facts – how many goals did he score with his right foot or with his head?” – Pele
“George Best was able to use either foot. Sometimes he seemed to have six of them” – Sir Matt Busby
“Maradona good, Pele better, George Best” – Famous Irish saying
“I worked hard all my life for this. Those who say I don’t deserve anything, that it all came easy, can kiss my arse.” — Maradona
“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.” – Argentinian psychologist
“Everyone went crazy over Wayne Rooney, but I get more excited by Cristiano Ronaldo.” -George Best
“There have been a few players described as the new George Best over the years, but this is the first time it’s been a compliment to me.” -George Best on Cristiano Ronaldo
So there we have it. It’s decision time. Does Cristiano Ronaldo deserve to be in this company yet? Could any of the other three score the goal that Ronaldo scored against Roma last night? Pele maybe. So if these are the greatest ever, what order do they go in?
I’ll go first and give my reasons:
1. Pele – a) 3 World Cup winners medals b) Scoring record c) Apart from Viagra, no drugs as far as we know d) He says he was better than Maradona
2. Diego Maradona – a) Won a World Cup almost single-handedly b) Talent and attitude, i.e. Kiss my arse c) Just too many drugs
3. Cristiano Ronaldo – a) Already performed at European and World Cups b) George Best said he is better than he was c) Hasn’t quite got the longevity yet
4. George Best – a) Wonderful player but Ronaldo has beaten his record b) Not his fault to be born in Northern Ireland but no major International success c) Too much booze.
Over to you.
Graham Fisher writes at Views of a fan.