Football is mainly about the rivalry between opposition teams, but the long history of the game has seen individual rivalries develop as well. Sometimes, these rivalries are between players of different positions, between a striker and a defender to see who can get the better of whom, sometimes between players in the same position to see who can be the better player on the pitch. The world of football has seen many such rivalries such as between Sir Bobby Charlton of England and the West German defender during the 1966 FIFA World Cup, between Johan Cruyff and Mario Kempes in the 1978 FIFA World Cup, between Zico and Claudio Gentile in the 1982 FIFA World Cup and so many others.
But perhaps the most talked about rivalry in world football is the one between Brazilian legend Pele and the Argentine maestro Diego Maradona. Both were the greatest players of their time and both had led their respective national teams to World Cup glory almost singlehandedly. In such a scenario, when two players from different generations are compared, it becomes extremely difficult to come to a consensus best player because the game will have gone a lot of transformation during the interim period.
Both players have claimed their superiority against each other. Moreover, another thing that complicates a decision on who is the best is that they played in different positions. Maradona was an attacking midfielder while Pele was perhaps the greatest striker of his and any other generation. He even led the Brazilian national team to 3 FIFA World Cup victories in 1958, 1962 and 1970, the first one as a 17 year old. He has also the record of being the only player in the history of football to score 1,000+ goals in official matches.
When it comes to Maradona, he took an extremely mediocre Argentina team to the FIFA World Cup in 1986 and almost single handedly secured the title for them. The tournament will probably be remembered for that famous Hand of Goal against England followed by a moment of sheer genius when Maradona dribbled and dodged past 5 England defenders to score what is considered as the greatest goal in world football. Although his first forays into European club football was not as successful as one might expect, he led a Napoli team in Italy to the League title and also the UEFA Cup, breaking the dominance of Juventus and the two Milan giants’ stronghold on the League.
And although these two have had many wars of words regarding who is the greatest, even FIFA, the governing body of world football couldn’t take the risk of naming only one as the greatest player and named both as the Two Greatest Players of All Time. World football will see many new rivalries develop and many verbal volleys exchanged, but the ones between Pele and Maradona is perhaps the greatest rivalry ever seen by fans of The Beautiful Game and that is how it will stay, no matter what happens.