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Zico names the best among Messi, Maradona, Pele

Zico ranks the greatest among Messi, Maradona and Pele

January 2, 2019 By Emmanuel K. Budu-Annor
The Brazilian legend has had his say on the big debate.

Legendary Real Madrid player Zico claims that Lionel Messi cannot be ranked on par with Diego Maradona and Pele with regards to the greatest player of all-time due to his failure to win an international trophy. The Brazilian, however, insists that the Barcelona skipper is not far off the level of his compatriot Maradona.

Lionel Messi finished 2018 as the highest ranked player with the most goals and assists in Europe, amassing 51 goals and 26 assists respectively. Currently, the 31-year-old striker sits atop La Liga's Pichichi chart with 15 goals in 15 appearances.

Nonetheless, in retrospect, the forward came under massive criticism after he failed to propel Argentina to an international trophy following their elimination at the Round of 16 of the 2018 FIFA World Cup held in Russia. With the hoodoo continuing, Zico – who is arguably dubbed the world's best player of the late 1970s and early 80s – believes that Lionel Messi's failures with the national team make it difficult for him to earn the tag as the all-time best football player. Yet, he insisted that his compatriot Pele is above both Maradona and Messi.

"Messi is close to Maradona," Zico told Omnisport.

"That means, in my opinion, he can't be compared to Pele. I still consider Maradona in front of Messi. With Pele, no. Pele has all the qualities and characteristics that a football player has to have.

"When God created him [Pele], he put every quality a footballer needs; speed, strength, impulse, technique, kicking ability, heading, dribbling – all of it, everything that a player might have.

"Few people could jump like him for a header. He is 170 centimeters tall. His foundations are perfect, [he had] mastery of the ball, [and mastery of] headers. He improved in every way. Everything you can imagine from a player, Pele has done it.

"[Messi has] almost everything, but he doesn't have the World Cup titles that Pele has. This [means] a lot," the former Brazilian star said.

"Because, I think Maradona played, like in our period, with a player in his back all the time. Maradona has done a lot for his clubs, as Messi does, and for the Argentina national team. Maradona was a world champion.

"Maradona has always stood out in the big competitions, and in a moment where Argentina was not a favorite with so many stars, like today, [when they have] high-level players in the big European teams.

"I think he didn't play in a team like Messi plays in for Barcelona today. He didn't have a [Gerard] Pique, an [Andres] Iniesta, a [Luis] Suarez, a Xavi or a Neymar beside him like Messi has today."

Despite having a stellar year on the club level, Lionel Messi finished fifth in the 2018 Ballon d'Or race. The 31-year-old Argentine forward finished behind Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann, Cristiano Ronaldo and eventual winner Luka Modric.

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