Sunday, March 27, 2011

The greatest players of all-time

How can you define who the greatest footballer of all-time is? Is it the player who’s won the most medals and trophies? Is it the player who’s won the world cup the most amount of times? Maybe individual awards? Or most goals scored? How about creative skills? Longevity and loyalty? Best haircut? Reputation?

We claim some players are among the greatest players ever by believing the hype the media feeds us about some players (ex: David Beckham). But for example, how is it possible to compare the great Brazilian Pele with current Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo?

Back in the 50s, 60s, and 70s, the grass was rougher, the boots were weaker, the referees were poorer, the offside rule was weak, the level of football was low, the money in the game was pitiful – do these factors mean that a player like Pele had it easy? Or that it was tougher back then? Would a player like Ronaldo succeed under those conditions?

Nowadays, players in the modern game are privileged to be playing on the best cut grass in the world, wearing the most developed football boots known to man, having referees officiate at the highest level possible when fouls are so easy to concede, playing when the competition is much more intense, gaining recognition and financial rewards that are beyond unrealistic – so, as with Pele, we could ask ourselves whether a player like Ronaldo has got it easy? Or is it tougher now? How would Pele fare if we transported him to our era?

If the game has changed so much over the years, how can we define who the greatest players of all-time are? This discussion can go on for hours, and we will all have different opinions and I am looking forward to hearing yours. However, in my opinion, to fall in the category of "greatest players of all-time", whatever the era and whatever the conditions, the player must have succeeded at both – club level and international level - and not just one of the two. I believe that is the true measure of being among the greatest players of all-time. No matter the competition, no matter the opponents or team-mates, the player always shines.

Very few great players have been able to do that during their careers. I think of a player like Ryan Giggs, as a prime example of a player who did it all on the club level of football, but never made it on the international stage. Whereas, I can also think of a player like Miroslav Klose, who performed miracles during World Cups for Germany, but was unable to reproduce such heights at the club level.

This brings me to the players I heap praise upon because I believe they are the elite players in the history of the game. These are the players who, when their country or club needed someone to lift them and take them that little bit higher, they were able to do it. Players like Diego Maradona, Zinedine Zidane, Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Del Piero…they are a rare breed of players who did it both on the club level and the international level and for long periods of time.

In today’s game, can we still find that? Are there any of these geniuses left? I find that there are very few players who can go through the different competitions while keeping the highest standard and achieving all the success. In my opinion, there are currently two players who have consistently proved in all competitions for the past few years that they will and they should be considered among the very best players ever: both are small in stature, both have been almost injury-free their whole careers, both dictate the midfield and create things out of the ordinary for their team-mates, both keep their feet on the ground, both have been with the same club since the start of their careers, both are not in the media spotlight, both have been the heartbeat of victorious sides over the past few years that will be written in the history books…they seem almost like the perfect footballers and they play alongside one another.

Of course, I’m talking about Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta, both of F.C Barcelona. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m really hoping F.C Barcelona’s bubble bursts real soon because I can’t stand reading or hearing about them being called the greatest team of all time and what not (that will be for another time by the way). However, credit has to be given to these two maestros. They are, in my opinion, among the greatest footballers ever and are the main reason why this Barcelona team are doing so well and why Spain's national side have been so successful lately.

You might wonder why I wouldn’t give Cristiano Ronaldo nor Lionel Messi a mention of being among the “greatest ever”. Even though I do believe they are both incredible players, I wouldn't think of them among the "greatest" just yet. I believe they will deserve to be considered among those household names anything only once they have achieved everything at club level AND at international level. So far we’ve seen them do everything at a club level, but let’s see if they will ever be able to reproduce that success for their national countries.

Your thoughts?


  1. Best Ever:

    It may be a cliché but the best player ever is probably maradona. Unlike xavi, iniesta, messi and ronaldo he had the capacity to win a championship (world cup, serie A and UEFA cup) by himself (argentina and napoly were more or less average teams, at least not among the top 3 of the tournaments).
    The teams were completely dependents on maradona's performances...

    Best ever for sure (I hesitated with Jamal Taha...)

  2. Nobody played the game with the grace and touch of Zizou. Could destroy defenders with his silky skills on his left and right foot as well as score unbelievable goals. He led france to the 98 World Cup and then to the final in 2006 as well as being a champions league winner. A superstar on the pitch but also a somewhat quiet and humble man off of it - never really got into too much controversy other than the headbutt, which was warrented. Something you couldn't really say about Maradona with his coke habits. Zizou had the entire package for a world class footballer!

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