Gary Lineker has told talkSPORT why he believes Lionel Messi beats rival Cristiano Ronaldo as the greatest footballer of all time.
It has been the debate of the modern sporting age – who is the real GOAT?
Many purists will not look beyond Pele and Diego Maradona. Many of the Manchester United faithful may say George Best, while others may say the genius of Johan Cruyff both on the pitch and in the dugout sets him above the rest.
But not Lineker.
The former England striker is ground firmly in the present and told talkSPORT this week there is no doubt who the best ever is in his mind – even though he played against one of the aforementioned superstars at the peak of his powers.
“I never thought I’d see a better player than Diego,” the ex-Leicester City, Everton, Tottenham and Barcelona ace told Hawksbee and Jacobs.
“Maradona was unbelievable and I was so much in awe of him, as everybody was in those days.
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“But I think when you look at Messi, he does everything and more than Diego could do. His goalscoring ratio is pretty much a goal a game and Diego’s was about one in two, which is pretty good, certainly in those days. It’s a bit easier now.
“Messi is also the best dribbler I’ve ever seen and as good a passer as I’ve ever seen. Diego was great at both as well, but when I think you take into account the longevity that Messi had done it in, about 15 years at the same level, as well.
“There’s the argument about World Cups, but a World Cup is precarious business. It’s a knock-out played every four years, so you need all sorts of things to come together.“You could argue that in the old days because that was the only time you’d see all the world’s best play in the same competition, whereas now you see that in the Champions League.
“All the best play in the Champions League and Messi has won that three or four times.”
So, for Lineker, Messi stands above the Argentine footballing God he likely grew up worshipping – but what of Ronaldo?
He says the Portuguese superstar will go down as one of the greatest goalscorers in history – and quite right, too, as he’s scored almost 700 career goals for club and country.
But he said there’s something… purer about the way Messi lights up the pitch which makes the Barcelona maestro his No.1.
He explained: “Most people don’t talk about Messi or Maradona, they talk about Messi or Ronaldo.
“I’m also a huge fan of Ronaldo, I’m a massive admirer of him.
“I think he’s one of the greatest goalscorers of all time, there’s no question about that.
“But for me football is about watching it and getting joy from it, and when I watch Messi play it makes me feel joyous.
“He does four or five things in a game that just get you off your seat, and for me that’s the difference between the two of them.”