Pablo Zabaleta has revealed that he would pick Lionel Messi over Diego Maradona when talking about the greatest Argentinian player ever.
Lionel Messi will take part in what is expected to be his final World Cup participation in a legendary career when the host nation, Qatar faces Ecuador on November 20 at the newly built Al-Bayt Stadium in Al Khor.
Few predict that the small genius, who is 35 and still at the peak of his game, will have another chance to win the World Cup after spending 19 years at the pinnacle of the beautiful game and winning a total of 34 major medals for club and country as well as seven Ballon d’Or awards.
As the captain of an Argentina team led by coach Lionel Scaloni that can finally boast a well-balanced team with talent to spare across the park while avoiding defeat in 34 consecutive matches, it has been dubbed by some as Messi’s best chance to win the World Cup. It would be an ending to an international career befitting one of the greatest players in the history of the game.
Pablo Zabaleta, a former Argentine international, has made his choice in the ongoing argument about whether Messi can claim to be Argentina’s greatest son before the late Diego Maradona.
After retiring from football in 2020, Pablo Zabaleta, who now covers La Liga for ESPN, offered his opinion on the ongoing argument and sided his former teammate against late Maradona, a player who was largely responsible for one of Argentina’s two World Cup victories in a competition that was infamously defined by the iconic “Hand of God” moment despite Maradona’s outstanding performances in 1986.
Pablo Zabaleta said: “Football was different in the 80s or 90s. For me, Messi is slightly different than Maradona. But, I know probably, if you ask my dad, he would say Maradona was the best. Not because I play with Messi or because I am a friend of him or something like that, but I think what I have seen from Messi doing for ten, fifteen years, and he is still producing some great moments of football at the age of 35, that is, you know, Fantastic.”
“So that’s why. I know Maradona was a genius, we were still watching clips of Maradona for years, but I think what Messi has done for ten or fifteen years is simply amazing.”
And Zabaleta most definitely has a point if their careers are compared side by side.
Both players had played for Argentina at the time of this writing for seventeen years; Maradona did so from 1977 to 1994 while Messi made his La Albiceleste debut in 2005 and is still playing today, in 2022.
However, despite serving the same amount of time, Messi has nearly three times as many goals for Argentina (90 to 34) and has made 73 more appearances than Maradona, while also having a higher strike rate (0.55 to 0.37).
The kind of players the pair have lined up alongside at the international level is another point of contention.
Many claims that Maradona drove Argentina to victory in 1986 despite playing on a team including Oscar Ruggeri and Daniel Passarella.
But Messi has worked with a group of athletes who have reached the summit of the game in Europe for years at the international level, including Javier Mascherano, Javier Zanetti, Angel Di Mara, Sergio Agüero, Gonzalo Higuain, Lautaro Martnez, and Paulo Dybala.
Messi has only ever made it to the World Cup finals, losing to Germany, whereas Maradona did not falter at the eleventh hour 28 years earlier. Argentina has long been deployed in a way to make the mercurial ten its focus, always to its detriment as the national team continues to fall short of the mark on the international stage.
But when their club careers are compared, Messi comes out on top, scoring 390 goals more than Maradona, outperforming him in terms of strike rate (0.81 vs. 0.52), and winning 25 more trophies than Maradona combined.
Despite having an undisputed club career that will go down as one of the greatest in the history of the sport, many believe that Messi will still live in Maradona’s shadow if he fails to win the World Cup in Qatar since he was unable to carry his country when it counted the most.