Firstly, my thanks to Arsenal fan and the much popular writer Kaustubh. His idea of round table discussions inspired me into arranging my first round-table discussion on Bleacher Report.
There has been the controversy ever since I was born as to who was the best among footballing legends Pele and Maradona.
While there have been numerous debates on this topic all around the world, I felt a debate or rather a discussion should be arranged for everyone at Bleacher Report and hence made this article. Hope you enjoy it. Your feedback as well as your views are sincerely appreciated.
While I had sent invitations to numerous people for participation in the debate, only a few turned up. No while I am not upset for people who did not turn up, I am equally thankful to the people who spent their invaluable time on my article. Their efforts are sincerely appreciated. The participants are:
1) Samir Hill - A B/R correspondent and dedicated Arsenal fan.
2) Roberto Alvarez-Galloso - A founding supporter of the US Soccer Supporters Club, who has more than 200 articles under his belt.
3) Callum D' Souza - Arsenal Featured Columnist, and one of the most popular writers in B/R.
4) Andrew Jordan - A World Football Featured Columnist with nearly four hundred stories, and lots of respect with him. Equally popular on Bleacher Report.
5) Kaustav Bose - Liverpool Featured Columnist, and a great fan of statistics. Very popular among EPL fans unlike me.
6) Robin S - He is a World Football Featured Columnist, and more a hardcore Arsenal fan. Very vocal against any negatives about his club, but very reasonable too.
7) Maxx G - Manchester United's Featured Columnist, and very popular among the B/R community. More so for his fetish for sexy WAGs about whom he creates slideshows very often(that was just a joke, no offense meant).
8) Saura Bhattacharjee - Lastly, myself a life-long Chelsea fan and a Chelsea Featured Columnist on B/R.
Samir Hill :
Maradona is the best ever.
Roberto Alvarez-Galloso :
My all-time greatest is Pele.
Callum D' Souza :
Pele is my all-time greatest.
Andrew Jordan :
Pele is my all-time greatest. To do what he did in his career will never be duplicated.
Robin S :
Both are legendary players. In my opinion, Maradona is slightly better than Pele. Pele had a better career, but due to Maradona’s off-field antics his prime didn't last for long. But in his prime, albeit short, Maradona played mesmerising football which no one else could. Having said that, Pele is the best striker ever.
Maxx G :
Though the all-time greatest has multiple faces, yet as the discussion is around the famous two, I would go for Maradona. Though if you would have asked me some other way, I would have an inclination much to Zidane. I have not seen much of Pele except all that Youtube stuff and some old footage in TV. But I did see a crazy little football god Maradona many a times. Sometimes reasons fall short of your love and respect, similar happened to me for Maradona. He stands as the best.
Kaustav Bose :
I will go for Maradona.
Saura Bhattacharjee :
Diego Armando Maradona is the greatest ever for me without any doubt.
Maradona may not have as good statistics as Pele in terms of goals, but what makes him great is the entertainment factor of his football, Maradona had amazing technique, he had a great first touch, could dribble like no other, and was a great finisher.
Pele played almost exclusively in the Brazilian league, and although this was one of the best at the time it was not known for having great defences.
Maradona on the other hand played in Argentina, Spain, and Italy, and succeeded against all different types of football.
The thing that most sets them apart is that Maradona won the World Cup almost single-handedly, scoring some of the greatest and most memorable goals in football history.
While Pele and Maradona have made significant contributions to football, there is a big difference in their behavior off the field.
Pele has behaved as an example of what a footballer should be. His behavior off and on the field are those of a professional sports person who is calm, cool, collected, and down to earth.
Maradona has disgraced the world of football with his use of drugs, arrogant behavior, and mistreatment of people around him, including journalists. His creation of a church is a symbol of how some people do not know how to handle success.
Callum D' Souza:
Pele was just so talented. His speed, vision, passing, he was blessed with just the most amazing array of skill.
Pele is the only footballer to win three World Cups, and has scored over 1,000 goals in his career. He was an extremely revolutionary player, more so than Diego Maradona.
Because Maradona was a better player overall. Maradona had better touch, and better passing skills than Pele. The only weakness of Maradona would be his over dependency on his left foot. But that same foot was magical. The 1986 World Cup was a one-man show, and part of the reason why I rate Maradona above Pele. Pele’s reluctance to leave Santos didn’t help either. Pele worked wonders in a Brazil team which was filled with stars. But Argentina’s 1986 World Cup winning side didn’t have many stars. It was all dependent on Maradona. And he passed that test with flying colours.
Maxx G :
Pele is the national hero of Brazil and a prolific scorer who scored 77 goals in 92 caps for Brazil. On the other hand, Maradona has less goals in his score list. However, if you really see, then Pele had a good team with him for Brazil while winning the World Cup. But Diego won the World Cup for Argentina on his own. If you ask that would Argentina have won the 1986 World Cup if Pele was there in-place of Maradona? The answer is NO.
And to add, few have the guts and talent to create the world famous HAND OF GOD, you must be a genius and Maradona was.
As legend says there are only two players in history who have been credited to winning the World Cup almost completely by their own efforts. Garrincha in 1962 and Maradona in 1986.
However, because of his exploits at all levels right from the South American club to European glory, I consider Maradona above the Brazilian.
Also, to add to that Maradona not only did the magic with the national team but also with Napoli, an Italian club which reached unprecedented heights under the leadership of the Argentine talisman.
Now as compared to Pele, well, Maradona still reigns supreme in my opinion for the simple reason that he never played around as great a national side as Brazil, nor did he do the same whilst at Napoli, and he still was able to give a unique facelift to both.
Another reason also would be that he reigned supreme right from his South American Club play to the European counterparts, whereas Pele finished his career without any variety and just ruled the roost in Brazil, with Santos and then sometime with the New York Cosmos.
Diego Maradona is the greatest because he single-handedly led his country to their only World Cup in 1986. Garrincha shares similar honours with him, but still Maradona was like God's gift to enthrall football lovers all over the world for time immemorial. His skills with the ball was just mesmerising, and to date unmatched. Moreover, he proved himself successful over three countries and that further underlines his supremacy over Pele.
The modern player that I would compare Maradona to is Ronaldinho. Ronny is not similar physically but when it comes to those moments of magic he is the only one who comes close.
Ronaldinho has proven himself in more than one team. He has played in South America, Spain, and Italy like Maradona and been a success wherever he played.
The main similarity is that anybody would pay just to see them play football.
It is very difficult to compare modern day footballers with maestros from the past. Every footballer has their personality and their era. Landon Donovan appears to be the Pele for the 21st century since both appear to have sincere personalities and are down to earth.
While my all-time favorite is Pele, please let me find a comparison for Maradona in the form of Anelka of the infamous French football team from the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. What Anelka has done participating in the strike against his teams coach and then talk ill about the country makes him the 21st century Maradona.
Callum D' Souza:
I fail to find a comparison to a player like Pele. He was a one of a kind and boast little comparisons with any modern day footballer.
I actually believe that Lionel Messi is a player that I would compare to Pele.
The reason why I believe Messi is due to the fact that he is similar to Pele in being a player that is extremely revolutionary.
At the age of 22, Messi can rightfully be called the best footballer in the world, similar to Pele.
And, Messi is a really humble player, similar to Pele back in his playing days as both allow their play to do all the talking.
I could only compare Maradona to one player, and that is Leo Messi. Both of them have similar physical frame. They both are left-footed. Great ball control and dribbling skills. They both are effective from a play-making position.
I would say that both these players represent a modern day footballer. Pele was born and casted as a natural scorer while Maradona showed marvelous dribbles passing the defenders to be a great play-maker. However, Pele came way before than Maradona and the quality of football improved much during the Maradona period. So, if defenders were more powerful during the later period, then an extra vote goes to Maradona definitely.
There are only two players in present day football who came even near to him in some ways. Messi and David Villa. However, I consider Messi as the nearest to Maradona.
Why ? Because No “Next Maradona’s” has managed to live up to their reputation the way Messi has...and he sure has the genius to win a World Cup on his own like Maradona. However, with the modern technology around things could be a hell lot tougher for him as opposed to Maradona.
Messi also needs to build a stronger physique in order to deliver at the rate of Maradona. With his goal scoring prowess abnormally high in recent times, he would surely surpass Maradona’s goal tally soon enough.
Whenever a matter of comparison with Maradona comes only the tiny Argentine wizard and Barca man Messi comes to mind. He has shown ample promise in the last few years and has been in top form. His skills with the ball remind me of the Maradona videos I have watched. He has all the potential to be the "Modern Maradona" and I see no reasons as to why he should not.
Maradona led Argentina to a World Cup, and a runner-up medal where he was the the best player on the team by some distance. Maradona’s legend is tainted by his drug use during the 1994 World Cup, which brought a sad end to a great career with Argentina.
Pele won three World Cups, but was never the best player on the team. In 1958 and 1962, Garrincha was Brazil’s best player, and it was the reason they won it in 1962. During the 1970 World Cup he was one of the best players, but he was outscored by his fellow countryman Jairzinho and it was more of a team effort than one man's brilliance.
In my opinion both have had huge impacts on their national sides and neither has had more of an impact they are about equal but on a global stage Maradona’s legacy is the greater of the two.
Pele has enriched Brazil with his football as well as his help towards the same people he grew up. He is involved in reducing poverty in his country and the world in collaboration with UNESCO.
Callum D' Souza:
Three World Cup victories is hard to top, so I say Pele.
This final question is extremely hard for me to call.
But I will say that Diego Maradona was greater for his nation. He almost single-handedly won the 1986 World Cup for Argentina and led them to another World Cup final in 1990.
Meanwhile for Pele, the 1962 World Cup that Brazil won saw Pele out for almost the entire tournament. Instead, it was Garrincha who won that World Cup for Brazil.
Because of the fact that Pele had so much of help around him internationally while Maradona had practically nothing, Maradona was better for his nation.
I think Pele was more successful in the International circuit. He scored a multitude of goals and won the World Cup three times. Maradona, on the other hand, had a better club career, which saw him play at Barcelona and Napoli. Pele was more confined to Brazil and the Brazilian League. I do believe Maradona’s contributions were vital in Argentina’s triumphs without whom Argentina wouldn’t have won the 1986 World Cup. It’s simple, Maradona carried the whole team on his shoulders.
Going by the statistics it has to be Pele, but here also I would love to ask the same question that I did before, would Argentina have won the World Cup ’86 without Maradona and with Pele? Maradona could have doubled his contribution if he could have managed a winning Argentine squad. If you talk of being a role model for the nation, then Pele stands ahead of Maradona, with a clean bold career, and no scandals. Maradona on the other hand is full of controversies. However, despite being so controversial, despite being less in the goal records than Pele, he remains in the hearts of people as a true football hero, who were and are with him during all times. We love you Diego.
That's simple as I already said. Until Messi really does anything unlike the last World Cup and wins the honours...Maradona has to be the best servant of Argentine Football ever…
Maradona it has to be. Though I agree he has had his share of controversies and ill behavior, but there is no denying the fact that his contribution for Argentine football is irrefutable. While Pele had the best team of the world assisting him, Maradona helped his nation to their debut World Cup title almost without any help on his able shoulders. So his contribution for his country is much ahead of Pele's, and with some distance.