Maradona and Messi share strengths and talent

After watching Barcelona’s Lionel Messi single-handedly (footedly?) destroy my beloved Arsenals’ chances of advancing in the UEFA Champions League by scoring four goals Tuesday night, comparisons to the greatest Argentinean player, Diego Maradona, began running through my head.

There have probably been plenty of debates already about who is better, so I figured I would throw my hat in the ring and compare Messi and Maradona.

Lionel Messi is a 22-year-old phenom, currently the FIFA World Player of the Year (2009), and a member of one of the most successful Barcelona (and national) teams in history.

He has won every possible Spanish club trophy, as well as the UEFA Champions League, Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup with Barcelona, and he did it all last season. He was also Barcelona’s leading scorer that season.

In 2008 he won a gold medal at the Beijing Olympics for Argentina, and he’s received countless individual honors since the 2005 season, both internationally and at the club level.

Messi is the youngest player to ever start a game and score a goal in Spain’s top soccer league, La Liga, the youngest Argentinean to ever play in a World Cup match and the youngest top scorer ever in the Champions League.

Messi has won practically every competition except for the World Cup a one of the only things that still separates him from reaching the level of Maradona.

Let’s pause for a moment to examine a few similarities between the two:

Both began professional careers by the time they reached age 16 and debuted for the Argentinean national team before they were 18.

Both played for Argentinean club Newell’s Old Boys and Spanish giants Barcelona.

Maradona himself named Messi his true successor in 2006.

Now, on to Maradona.

Diego Maradona is not only considered by some to be the greatest Argentinean player ever, but the best player ever. Period.

He shared the FIFA Player of the Century award with Pelé and his popularity endures so much today that there’s even a Church of Maradona, complete with its own set of Ten Commandments.

Although Maradona did not have as much club success as Messi has had so far, his legend mostly stems from one game against England in the 1986 World Cup. Maradona’s famous “Hand of God” incident occurred during this match and gave Argentina the lead and his greatest soccer accomplishment, from the same game, is perhaps overshadowed by this feat.

After his “Hand of God” goal put Argentina up 1-0, Maradona received a pass near the halfway line in his own half of the field. He proceeded to take the ball down the field, beating four England players before sidestepping the goalkeeper and scoring.

It took Maradona about 65 yards in 11 seconds to score the one of the greatest goals ever and Argentina went on to win the World Cup that year.

The most interesting fact of all? Messi scored a carbon copy of that goal in a game for Barcelona. If Maradona was dead, I might just start believing in reincarnation.

Maradona is still the unquestioned greatest Argentinean player ever, but Messi’s career has barely started. One thing that Messi must have, however, to even have a chance at surpassing Maradona is a World Cup title. He may have his chance this summer.

Check back in 10 years. There might be a new Maradona by then.

Marshall Doig is a sophomore news editorial major from San Angelo.