Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 23 October 2014

James Lawton's 10 greatest footballers of all-time - did Messi, Best, or Ronaldo make the grade?

Bobby Charlton
10 BOBBY CHARLTON - More than anything, he was the scorer of great goals. He moved through midfield as a vision of grace - some said it was a little like seeing a beautiful galleon with full sail - and always there was a hard purpose, a wonderfully acute competitive edge. Pele and Charlton remain devoted. It is that respect that happens between players who understand that having talent is not always enough. There also has to be the heart, vigour and supreme football intelligence. In all respects both men refused to stint themselves - or the game they so hugely enhanced.
Franz Beckenbauer
9 FRANZ BECKENBAUER - 'The Emperor' is the only defender to make the list but describing him as such is a bit like saying that Leonardo da Vinci was a nifty draughtsman. He was a player of superb insight and consummate touch and if the great Cruyff blew a historic opportunity in Munich, no one deserved to benefit more than the man who still personifies the best of German football.
Diego Maradona
1 DIEGO MARADONA - What is the ultimate judgment on a footballer? It is how he inflicted himself at the very highest level of the game - and under its most demanding challenges. If you saw Maradona in Mexico in the World Cup of 1986, and then, a year later, delivering the Serie A title to Naples, you have to say that no one ever did more. His wildness had taken him to the edge of destruction, but then he stepped back from the brink in a way you can never forget. Certainly he will always be revered in Naples, that appropriately volatile and anarchic city.

You can do no better than invade the most vital moments of your destiny, gather together the best of your talent and strongest of your will. Cristiano Ronaldo collected the Ballon D'Or last night not as a gift but an absolute right.

In Rio this summer he may advance further a career which is already underpinned by the brilliant achievement of refining, and maturing, his game to the point where he inevitably claims a place among the 10 best players of all time.

Success in the World Cup, which for the time being is the ultimate test of a great footballer, would surely carry him to a place above his superb but currently injury-besieged rival Lionel Messi.

Such glory eluded Messi in South Africa four years ago and it is an account he has to settle as he strives to return to his old astonishing level of performance. Ronaldo had secured a distinct edge last night with his stupendous goals and his stunning physical strength.

Certainly there is reason to believe that he may prove to be the enduring talent of his generation.

Meanwhile, as we draw up our revived list of football history's top 10 we can again only regret the fact there is no place for any of the great defenders, men like Italy's Franco Baresi and Paolo Maldini, nor such virtuosos as Garrincha, Gerson and Denis Law.

Law? If he doesn't make the top 10, he does have one enduring tribute.

It is the consensus of a touring Brazilian team that he was the one player they would like to wrap up and take home.












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