Legends. It's a word bandied about a lot in the world of football today, about retired veterans and memorable players. But is there a reluctance amongst pundits and fans alike to certify legendary status, only to uphold the greatness of players gone by?
Upon reading an article questioning whether Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was worthy of being considered a legend at Manchester United, I started to ponder what actually makes a player a legend—in the eyes of the media contingent and the fans as well.
Why does it feel as if the current talents of football will be never be able to take the mantle of greats like Pele, Maradona, Cruyff, and Beckenbauer?
The football world is without doubt trapped in nostalgia, and you don't have to look far to find it—whether it be in the club you support or the tournaments they compete in.
Football is addicted to its history and it's for that reason that the majority still recall Pele as the greatest.
Or perhaps it's a case of the experiences of past generations somehow managing to remain the most prominent, even in the face of the most sensational talents gracing the world stage today.
The people who had the pleasure of watching Pele in his day proclaim him to be the best and fair enough. But on what basis do people reading statistics and watching archive footage continue to side with Pele as the true great of football—ahead of every player that has played professionally to date?
This article may be focused on Pele, but I use him only as an international example to highlight the unspoken stigma existing in football. That the greats will not be eclipsed, at club level or internationally, when in actual fact there is a large number of gifted athletes playing today with just as much ability and talent.
But when the question of whether players today may have bettered the greats arises, many are quick to reject that possibility.
Traditional legends in a football sense only mean the elite group of players who were among the first to achieve a supreme status of super-stardom with their footballing capabilities. They're legends for this reason only.
But on the other hand, I would like to think football has progressed since the '60s—that the game and the players have become better.
In the opinion of those brave enough to admit it, the likes of Ronaldinho, Lionel Messi, Kaka, or Cristiano Ronaldo are just as good if not better than most having come before them.
They may not share similar winners medals or appearance tallies, but if you were to compare two people as players and not statistics, would you still prefer to watch Pele over Cristiano Ronaldo?
Pele has been the greatest for decades, and even the younger generations side with that belief because history has preached this opinion to them as fact.
Whether history will preach a different great in 50 years time is an entirely different story altogether.