| 9.5°C Dublin

World Cup marks Maradona out as the all-time great


Diego Maradona

Diego Maradona

Diego Maradona

I played against Lionel Messi twice, played against Cristiano Ronaldo lots of times, usually in a Manchester derby… but Diego Maradona was truly the all-time great of the game.

Euro '88 was the first tournament I really remember watching, I was nine years old. So my memory of Maradona winning the World Cup in '86 is only from video. He was at his peak at Italia '90 and as a teenager I saw him at the 1994 World Cup, when he was past his best.

What I loved about Maradona was how he played. Because he played as if it was just a game in the local park or in the schoolyard. The best player in those games would just get the ball and dribble past everyone.

Maradona played like that, but did it in a World Cup final, in the Italian league, in an era when defenders could kick lumps out of players.

I look at the goals Messi has scored and while he is a great player, what Maradona did marks him out in terms of individual brilliance, as the best there was.

I had two games against Messi: one was a pre-season friendly, for Manchester City against Barcelona at the Nou Camp. He came on at half-time and was named man of the match, that's how good he was. I also played against him for Ireland in Dublin in 2010.

The two Argentines played in different eras so it's hard to compare them. In terms of their dribbling ability and having that low centre of gravity, Messi and Maradona were similar, they had the same style of play.

But while Messi is an unbelievable player, he played in a really good Barcelona side - he was the stardust for the team.

But Maradona seemed to carry teams on his own - both Argentina and Napoli.

Most football fans could easily name the rest of the team in the Messi-era Barcelona sides. But who could name the players who were around Maradona at his clubs and the national team?

People still say it was Maradona, not Napoli, who won those Italian league titles.

That's what separates him, as well as the fact that he won a World Cup - and that will always have him above the likes of Messi and Ronaldo.