Friday, July 7, 2006

Zidane: Where Does He Rank?
Solon & Soap Discuss In Detail

Preface: this post is very wonky. You've been warned.

I have been saying for a while that Zidane is the greatest player over the time period beginning with Maradona's retirement and ending today. I'm not really going out on a limb there; I think it is generally accepted wisdom and probably even beyond argument.

Last Sunday as I was walking to my car I had a thought, so I called up Solon and left him a voicemail asking him: "Pele & Maradona are regarded as the 2 best players ever, in a class by themselves. IF Zidane duplicates his performance against Brasil in the semi and/or final, and France win, will he join that elite group with his 2 world cups, 1 euro championship, champions league, 3 world player of the year honors, etc., etc. , or no?"

Solon called me back and gave me his answer: "No. Hell No. He is not even regarded by many as being France's best player (Platini), so there is just no way."

But it obviously got him thinking, because the next day I got the following email from him which was CC'd to Soap:

This is an interesting debate, and the sort of thing I've been recently getting particularly interested in, so let me flesh out my thoughts.

I think, if you could somehow list the consensus Top 22 players of all-time, the list would look like this (without Zidane):

(Keep in mind that this is a mix of my own list, and what I think the consensus would be if you polled people who were knowledgeable about such things.)

(1) Pele (Bra)
(2) Maradona (Arg)
(3) Cruyff (Hol)
(4) Di Stefano (Arg)
(5) Garrincha (Bra)
(6) Beckenbauer (Ger)
(7) Puskas (Hun)
(8) Best (N Ire)
(9) Platini (Fra)
(10) Charlton (Eng)
(11) Leonidas (Bra)
(12) Eusebio (Por)
(13) Muller (Ger)
(14) Van Basten (Hol)
(15) Matthews (Eng)
(16) Zico (Bra)
(17) Kocsis (Hun)
(18) Ademir (Bra)
(19) Moore (Eng)
(20) Maldini (Ita)
(21) Varela (Uru)
(22) Yashin (USSR)

Zidane obviously fits on this list somewhere, the only question is where.

Obviously, the top 2 are perceived of as head-and-shoulders above the rest. I'd argue there's also a gap between 10 and 11, or maybe 12 and 13--the top 10 (or top 12) are considered the gods of the game, while the rest of the list are just legendary players (Van Basten, Zico, Kocsis), some of whom are the best in their roles or in their positions (Maldini, Yashin).

In my opinion, 2006 WC win or not, I think Zidane falls right on the line between the gods and the legends, ranking somewhere between 11 and 13. To some extent, he's restricted by the fact that as a general rule, he's not considered as great as Platini--which leaves him below him in the pecking order, and, among European footballers, Platini is undoubtedly considered not as great as Cruyff and Beckenbauer (it's arguable whether he's considered as great as Best or Puskas, but I don't think the consensus is that he is. And, by the same token, I think some would argue that Charlton and Eusebio are better than Platini, but I doubt it's the consensus).

Now, then, is Platini actually better than Zidane?

If France win WC 2006, there's little doubt that Zidane will have accomplished more as French captain--2 World Cup wins, and a Euro Championship, as opposed to Platini's Euro 1984 Championship and WC Semifinal defeats in 1982 and 1986, when they arguably had the best team both times but went out to the West Germans--but as a player, Platini was a much more prolific goalscorer: 41 goals in 72 games for France (compared to Zizou's 29 in 105), and 224 goals in 429 club matches (compared to Zizou's 92 in 593). Zidane is a wizard on the ball, but Platini is generally considered the better passer. And, as good as Zidane is at free kicks, Platini is equally well-regarded.

In terms of personal honors, Platini was a two-time World Player of the year, and a three-time European Player of the year. Zidane was a three-time World Player of the year, and a one-time European Player of the year.

In terms of club success, both won 3 domestic league titles; Zidane also won the CL in 2003.

Zidane's perceived edge over Platini, as much as there is one, is with regard to his ability to step it up in the big matches.


Zidane scored 2 goals in the 1998 final; he also dominated Brazil in the 1/4 final stage of this WC. He played well in Euro 2000, scoring the winning penalty in the Semi, and also played well in Euro 2004, scoring a legendary brace in stoppage time to beat England. And, his winning goal in the CL Final against Leverkeusen was one of the greatest goals ever scored by anyone.

Platini's France team fell at the Semifinal stage of the World Cups in 1982 and 1986. In 1982, Platini scored two goals, one from a penalty. In 1986, Platini also scored twice, although he famously missed his PK in the shootout with Brazil. While these are not great performances, they are by no means poor goals totals for a midfielder, and he generally played well in these tournaments.

That said, in the 1984 European Championship--on home soil--Platini was about as dominant as a player has ever been in a major tournament. He scored 9 goals (next high scorer in the tournament--3 goals), including a 119th minute winner in the Semis against Portugal, and the first goal in a 2-0 win over Spain the final.

Given that this was France's first win in a major tournament, and it took place in France, I would argue that in France, the performance was so legendary that in the eyes of the French people his place in history will be virtually impossible to supplant. And, given that, in terms of Zidane's historical perception, this pretty much puts him right where I've put him--just behind Platini, somewhere between the 11th and 13th best player ever.

Part of the problem is that most of the "gods" of the game are older players--with the exception of Maradona and Platini, they all played the better parts of their career before games were widely televised (club games, at least--each country probably had one match televised domestically, and I don't know how much people in other countries saw the highlights), and the picture quality of the highlights is often poor. Also, the gap between the good players and bad players was pretty massive, so it was easier for the great ones to dominate. All of this makes it tough to assess these players with too much accuracy.

For example, if you look at the footage of Eusebio against North Korea, where he scores the 4 goals, it's a man against boys. It would be impossible for a player to dominate a World Cup 1/4 now the way he did in that game. It doesn't help that all the pictures are grainy, either--seeing this enormous man running circles around the smaller North Koreans and unleashing these furious volleys just adds to the legendary nature of his domination.

For the record, I started watching International soccer in 1986, and club soccer in 1999, and I think Maradona is the best player I have ever seen, by a mile.

Any thoughts?

Followed shorthly thereafter by this:

A few mistakes and additions:

(1) Platini did win the CL, in 1985--and Platini scored the only goal of the game, a penalty.

(2) Apparently, Platini scored the goals that ensured qualification to the 1978, 1982, and 1986 World Cups:

"In 1981, just as he did four years earlier against Bulgaria and just as he would four years later against Yugoslavia, Platini scored the crucial goal which ensured qualification to a major tournament. A sumptuous free-kick against Holland at the Parc des Princes in Paris sealed France's passage to the 1982 FIFA World Cup™."

I'm not sure what to make of this, other than that it's pretty amazing.

(3) During the 1984 Euro Championships, he scored two hat-tricks--and each of them consisted of a goal with his left foot, a goal with his right foot, and a goal with his head.

Given all this, I don't think there's much question that he's at least as clutch than Zidane.

In fact, the only question, really, is how in the hell is Platini not ranked up there with Pele and Maradona? Am I ranking him way too low, or is #9 a fair representation of his reputation?

Soap's response:

Hard question...
The top 3 in my opinion tower over the rest. They could have dominated in any era without much trouble.

Garrincha and Di Stefano would be alone in the next group. Brazil only lost once when Garrincha was on the pitch. (66 to England?) but how much of that was Pele during a part of that time? Di Stefano won what 5 or 6 European Cups and had a hat trick in at least one of those finals. Did he ever play in a World Cup? I don't think he did but I'm not sure why. Need to look that up.

Puskas, Beckenbauer and Platini would be in the next group. Puskas may need to be higher. He should have won the WC. He scored against West Germany to make it 3-2 but was called off sides in a bad bad call by an western ref during the heyday of the cold war... I would prob put Zidane with this group. Esp if they win another final. Can't see how that doesn't rank as high as Puskas and the Kaiser and prob Platini. Zidane has beaten the favorites twice in the world cup with really amazing perfromances. The dissater of 02 he missed because of injury and gets a pass. If he were to have another game like the one on Sunday in the finals I would think about putting him at the top of this group above Puskas.

1) Pele, Maradona and Cryuff in that order.
4) Garrincha and Di Stefano
6) Puskas, Beck, Zidane, Platini as of today.

I think it is a big gap between this group and the next. Prob a bigger gap between 9 and 10 then between Pele and the rest of this group. At the top of the next group would be Best but not having a WC hurts him more than Di Stefano. I'll have to think about the next grouping for a few minutes.

Question: Should Ronaldo be in the top twenty?

Back over to Solon:

Good stuff, Soap.


Some bits:

(1) Garrincha's loss with Brazil--their only loss in 60 matches with him on the pitch--was in 1966 in the group stages, I believe to Hungary. It's worth noting that Pele was injured for that match; Brazil never lost when both were playing.

(2) Di Stefano never played in the World Cup due to naturalization issues (I think he played for three countries in all; Argentina, Spain, and maybe Columbia), and then injury. I can't remember, but I think there might also have been a falling out with a national coach somewhere. Kanu's got a book* that goes into it all, and it's really amazing the bad luck he had never to have played in the WC.

Di Stefano had at least one hat-trick in a CL final--although in the same match (a 7-3 win over a team from Frankfurt), Puskas scored 4 goals.

(3) I think Puskas is incredible. Note that he came to Real Madrid in 1956, meaning they either won all of those European Cups with him, or at least 4 of the last 5 (I'm not sure how the seasons ran back then).

While the Dutch of the 1970's are always the "best team never to have won the World Cup," it was actually the Hungarians of the early 1950's. They lost one match between 1950 and 1956, which happened to be the WC Final, in controversial circumstances. Earlier in the tournament, they had beaten West Germany 8-3 (West Germany was resting many of their top players). In this match, Puskas had gotten injured (no one, as far as I know, has suggested anything untoward, but it's an odd coincidence), and according to accounts he played in the Final although clearly not match fit. He had missed the 1/4 against Brazil, and the 1/2 against Uruguay (Uruguay's first loss ever in WC
play).

Along the way, they destroyed England's claim of soccer superiority, winning 6-3 at Wembley (first non-UK side ever to beat the English there), and 7-1 in the return leg. They had a run of 32 consecutive wins, still an all-time record for a national side. And, Puskas' strike rate was crazy--357 goals in 354 matches for his Hungarian club team, 154 goals in 167 matches for Real Madrid, and 83 goals in 84 matches for Hungary. His 83 national goals is still 2nd all-time, and stood until some Iranian player broke it in 2003. Not only that, but once Puskas went to Real Madrid (in 1956) he defected, so all of the years at Real Madrid (1956-1967) were years that he was still kicking ass but not playing for his national team. His defection in 1956 (as well as the defection of several other key players) is what ended Hungary's incredible run, not lack of performance on the pitch.

(4) Beckenbauer's tough to rank, everyone loves the guy and he's universally considered the best defender ever, but how high can you rank a defender? Same problem, to a lesser extent, with Yashin (who, by the way, allegedly saved 150 PKs over the course of his career).

(5) In truth, I probably wouldn't have ranked Best so high--I mean, I knew he was great, but I thought it was more hype than reality--except that Pele and Maradona each said that he was the best player they had ever seen.

(6) I probably should have included Meazza (Ita) on the list somewhere. There are also probably great Uruguayan players from the 1920's (I think they won both Olympic tournaments, along with the first WC in 1930) that I don't know about.

(7) As I was doing this, it occurred to me that Ronaldo should probably be in this list somewhere. We think of him now as a fat fuck, but he was pretty incredible when he was younger and now he's the leading goalscorer in WC history, like it or not. He's scored 71 goals for Brazil, which is pretty close to Pele's 77, and up there with Puskas' 83 (which I think is the record for legitimate national teams). He was on the 1994 team that won the Cup, his injury in 1998 dominates the story of the WC final (and he won the Golden Ball), and, after suffering a massive injury, he led the 2002 team that won it (winning the Golden Shoe and the Silver Ball). He's also a three-time World Player of the Year.

All things considered, Zidane may slip into the list somewhere toward the bottom of the gods of the game, and I'd probably rank the relevant portion of the list like this now:

(6) Puskas
(7) Beckenbauer
(8) Platini
(9) Best
(10) Zidane
(11) Charlton

And,
I'd jump Zidane ahead of Best if he can play well and win WC 2006. But I really can't jump him in front of Platini. That said, with 2 WC wins in 3 tournaments (and his being injured in the other)--and with his coming out of retirement to lead them to another WC-- history would
perhaps judge him more kindly.

Solon

Soap's reply:

On my way to the golf course but a few quick thoughts:


I never trusted all the hype around Best. After living in England I can't seperate the fact from the hype. The media and the fans can build players up so high. I didn't realize Pele and Maradona had said that about Best. Might change my mind...

I agree that Beckenbauer is hard to rank. Where do you put the best defensive player on a chart of the all time best. An old guy who lived next door to me in England and was a football nut always said the best player he ever saw was Yashin because he could stop a team from scoring which is just important as scoring. I don't know enough about him to know...

Later,
Soap

What do you think of all this? Where does Zidane rank among the all time greats? Is he France's best player, or is Platinti?

My $.02 would be:

First off, it is always a fool's errand to compare across generations. Second, I never saw any of these players play in my adult lifetime other than Maradona at the end of his career and Zidane, so I am not speaking so much from my personal observation but mostly from things I have read or seen on film. That being said...

Group 1:
Pele and Maradona in that order - Diego might have been better than Pele but Pele wasn't a cheater and never scored a goal intentionally with his hand that I know of

Group 2:
Cryuff, Puskas, Di Stefano, Garrincha


Group 3:
Platini, Zidane, Beckenbauer, Best

Throw Yashin in goal, and it's not a bad little XI, is it? Except for the fact that there's only 1 midfielder and 1 defender. Screw it- I'll have Cantona as my coach and we'll play 1-1-8.

Also, I would put Ronaldo somewhere between 13th and 17th on Solon's original list at the top, just behind Eusebio but above the bottom 5.

*That book is Morbo: The Story Of Spanish Football, by Phil Ball

5 comments:

DC Trojan said...

Re Best (this is a long intro but bear with me) - FWIW, the parent in my family that is the soccer enthusiast is my mother (dad went to a school that only played rugby, and my mother's father was determined to routinely take a child to see Rangers games no matter what). Anyway, she was at the Real Madrid - Eintracht Frankfurt European Championship game in 1960 -- generally referred to as one of the best European club games ever played. Puskas scored a stunner -- you can see it at around 1:30 on this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LHnVtctkNxU&search=1998

The reason I mention all of this is that she's of that era, knows her footie, and says that Best might be the best player she ever saw.

moin said...

A couple of thoughts to add on:

1) You guys left off Zoff. The debate over greatest keeper isn't as settled as you guys make it out to be.

2) Di Stefano in his youth looked alot like James Dean, worth mentioning (Bill Simmons style).

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/74/Alfredo_di_stefano.jpg

3) Di Stefano was very unlucky not to play in the World Cup. In '50 and '54, Argentina withdrew from the competition. In '58, Spain did not qualify for the WC. In '62, he was injured and missed Spain's early exit.

4) Along with being the winner of the first 5 CL's, more impressively, Di Stefano managed to score in every one of those 5 as well. On top of that, after being knocked out in '61 (by Barca, who then went on to lose to Eusebio's Benfica in the final), he led Real Madrid to another 2 finals in '62 and '64, but lost to Benfica and Inter respectively. (The Benfica match is especially notable as Puskas blew up on the ref after the match accusing him of being on Benfica's payroll, but I digress.) This means out of the first 9 CL's, Di Stefano played in 7 of them and scored in 6 for a total of 7 goals!

5) Puskas joined Real Madrid in 1958 and won 3 CLs with them and played in 5 finals. (Paco Gento deserves a mention here too, 6 CL wins, 8 appearences in the first 11 years of the competition.)

7) It's also worth mentioning that there has been accusations of doping by the German players in the 1954 Finals over Puskas' Hungarian team.

http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2004/04/01/1080544635018.html?from=storyrhs

8) Di Stefano has gone on record as saying that Maradona is a better player in terms of skill and that, with drive and practice, would have been able to match his own ability to cover the entire pitch (quite a compliment).

9) Maradona has gone on record saying that he thinks Di Stefano was the best he ever saw, and that Best was also the best he ever saw. (Maradona confusing the meaning of "best".)

10) I think Beckenbaur needs to be moved up to par with Di Stefano and Cryuff. I just think defense is a little too underappreciated when involved in talks like this one. Besides, Beckenbaur defeated Cruyff when it matters most. While it's probably fair to say that Cruyff was better that day than Beckenbaur, Becks team won.

11) Puskas strike record is crazy, but Muller's is even crazier: 68 goals in 62 caps. Averaging more than 1 goal per cap. Of course, all of this should be considered in context. Puskas played in a much much more attacking era than now, or even when Muller played. (His team only played a 2-3-5, nowadays, that's madness.)

12) Platini's CL accomplishments need to be put into context. Those days, Juventus was much like Arsenal of today, very accomplished within Italy, nothing outside. In '83, Platini and company underpermed badly against HSV and lost in the CL Final. In '85, Juventus' win came on the heels of the Heysel disaster. They were still rioting when the match started. Crazy. Either way, it was another one of those bad performances by Juventus but they won on a rather dubious penalty and Liverpool had a similiar PK claim denied. Afterwards the Juventus players paraded around the pitch as if nothing happened, giving a bad taste in everyone's mouth. For this reason, I don't have a problem putting Zidane above Platini. Yes, Platini dominated the '84 Euros about as much as one man can, but doesn't make him something of a ceiling that Zidane can't break, especially if he does something nifty for the next match.

13) This entire discussion has been devoid of Gianni Rivera. An injustice. He's probably the best attacking player Italy has ever produced. A deep lying creative midfielder (much like Pirlo, except better), he was the creative force behind the great Milan and Italy sides of the late mid and late 60s and early 70s. 2 time CL winner (the first Italian club to win it in '63, creating both goals), 2 time Cup Winner's Cup winner, and one Eurn Championship in '68. He guided Italy to the 1970 WC Finals where they ran into a buzzsaw that is the Brazilian squad, but before that, he scored the winner in the 119' of the "Match of the Century" in the semis against Germany. Sure he probably doesn't belong amongst the top of the list by Solon, but he deserves to be on there.

14) I assume the Maldini mentioned here is Paolo, not his father, Cesare, though you could argue both are worthy.

I would put the top tier players like this:
1) Pele
2) Maradona
3) Cruyff, Beckbenbaur, Garrincha
6) Di Stefano, Puskas, Platini, Zidane
10) Best, Charlton, Eusebio, Muller, Rivera.

I'm sure I'm short changing a couple of great Brazilian players in there.

Solon said...

I appreciate the feedback, guys.

First things first--most everything is based on what I've read, or highlights I've seen, because most of these players were done playing before I ever got into the sport--hell, many of them were done playing before I was born.

DCTrojan:
You say that your mother "says that Best might be the best player she ever saw." Who are some other players she rates highly? As a soccer enthusiast of that era, she probably can contribute more than I can on the subject.

(And, let's face it, the coolest thing ever would be to see a post by "DCTrojan's Mom" telling me that I'm full of it and that Georgie Best was the greatest player ever.)

Go to wikipedia and take a look at Best's goal they've got on there. Outside of (1) Maradona's against England in 1986, and (2) Owen's against Argentina in 1998, I'm not sure I've seen a better goal. Sure, the NASL probably wasn't the deepest league, but that goal would have been amazing against a high school defense.

Best is probably a lot like Mantle--the combination of his massive natural ability and his destructive lifestyle probably makes people wonder what might've been if he'd made the most of what he had.

It's very strange, though--Best gets a lot of hype, but for whatever reason the player that is almost universally considered to be the best never to play in a World Cup is Di Stefano.

Is it because Di Stefano won all the European Cups in a row? Is there a backlash against British players in the calculus? Do people resent Best for his lifestyle?

On to Moin:
(1) Historically, I have always thought of Banks as the #2 keeper, and Zoff as the #3 keeper. But Yashin seems to be the clear #1; not only was he the #1 on FIFA's world team of the 20th Century, but the award for the best keeper at the World Cup is named after him. Perhaps the most amazing thing about him is that he was voted European player of the year in 1963. Outside of Beckenbauer and Sammer, I don't even think any defensive players have won the award, let alone keepers.

(2) I will defer on knowledge of Real Madrid history, of course, but I thought Puskas went to Real Madrid in 1956, taking advantage of the governmental situation in Hungary (there was some sort of revolution there, quickly crushed by the Soviets but not before many intellectuals and others left the country). Was this not the case?

(3) Muller's strike rate is impressive, although I would make the following claim: the gap in scoring between Puskas' era and Muller's era is about the same as between Muller's era and today. Which is not to say that what Muller did wasn't impressive, just to say that it's not as impressive as if someone did that today (all things considered, the most impressive strike rate in Internationals may belong to Gabriel Batistuta, who scored 56 goals in 78 internationals, in arguably a slightly more defensive era than we are in now).

To his advantage, however, Muller was undoubtedly the primary striker on his West German team, whereas Puskas' Hungary had several prolific strikers. Not only did they have Kocsis (also on my list) with 75 goals in 68 internationals, but also Hidegkuti, who scored 39 goals in 69 internationals. Hidegkuti, by the way, had a hat trick in that historic 6-3 Hungarian win at Wembley.

Truth be told, if Kocsis had gone to Real Madrid and Puskas had gone to Barcelona, it's entirely possible that Kocsis would be remembered as the greatest Hungarian player ever, not Puskas.

(4) Part of my problem with Zidane's perception is that he seems to step it up at the right moments as opposed to being consistently great. He gets a lot of hype for his WC performance in 1998, but he did nothing of note until the final. I also think that despite what the announcers are saying, he's had one great match in this WC--against Brazil. Vieira was the MOTM against Spain, and Thuram was the MOTM against Portugal.

Even when he won the CL with that magnificent goal against Leverkusen, he hadn't done anything of note up to that point, and did little after. The MOTM of the final was undoubtedly Casillas, not Zidane. And it's worth noting that Zidane had missed the first 4 matches of that season's CL, because he had been suspended for his hijinx with Juventus the season prior.

The bottom line is that what people remember are the two goals in the 1998 final, the goal against Leverkusen, and the performance against Brazil. But I think the incredible highlights he's created, and when he's created them, overstate his importance.

(5) I'll freely admit that I've never heard of Rivera. I have no doubt that you are spot on, anyone who has 569 appearances for Milan has got to be an absolute stud. I know that the 1970 Italian team is considered one of the greatest ever assembled, although they were overshadowed by the Brazilian team.

Outside of Piola and Meazza (and of course, R Baggio), most all of the Italian players I know are defenders. In truth, Piola (to this day the leading scorer in Serie A history) should be on the list somewhere, probably in the high 20's.

(6) You are correct, I am talking about Paolo Maldini, not his father.

(7) One other thing I should mention, I can't imagine that Pele was better than Maradona, even though I have Pele ranked #1. But, I think the combination of (1) his being Brazilian, (2) his being such a prolific goalscorer, (3) his inclusion as a 17 year old on the squad that finally winning the WC for Brazil, (4) his being on the Brazilian squad that won the WC in Europe, and (5) his heading up that 1970 Brazilian team widely considered the best ever is just too much for Maradona to overcome in terms of public perception. Another thing he's got going for him is that he's not a drug addicted cheat.

One other note on Pele--I watched the 1994 World Cup Final in Athens, Georgia, at a pizza place called Peppino's. It was packed to the brim with about 33% Brazilians, 33% Italians, and 33% Americans. Keep in mind that when I say packed, I mean packed--there had to be a 200-300 people in there, and if the Fire Department had come in we'd all have been screwed.

So, of course, when the Brazilians ended up winning the World Cup on penalties, the noise level--which had been pretty high during the entire match--went through the roof.

Anyway, about 20-30 seconds after Baggio had missed his PK, the TV feed cut to a shot of Pele, who was at the stadium, celebrating--and, although I wouldn't have thought it possible, the crowd at Peppino's GOT EVEN LOUDER.

All of which encapsulates why Maradona will never supplant Pele as football's greatest player, no matter what each of them did on the pitch.

moin said...

Solon
1) From what I read, what happened with Puskas was that he, along with quite a bit of the Hungarian squad, defected after a friendly due to the Soviet put down of the Hungarian revolution in 1956. However, FIFA incredibly instituted a 2 year ban on any club that would let any of the players train with them. That's why, even though Puskas defected in '56, he didn't officially join Real Madrid until 1958.

2) I do think Yashin is number 1, but my feel is that quite a number of people (I suppose mostly Italians) feel that Zoff was better. Then again, I suppose most of the English masses feel Banks is better. But your point about defensive players certainly makes Sammer's pre-mature retirement due to injury very tragic doesn't it?

3) Your point about Kocsis is a very good point. Had Benfica not managed its furious comeback in the 1961 CL Final (they won 5-4), Kocsis might be rated very much up there with Puskas.

4) I do think Maradona was more skilled than just about anyone who has ever lived. But he only really played in 2 World Cups, only played great in 1. Had 4 great seasons at Napoli from 19867 to 1989. And that's about it. He destroyed himself before he could overtake Pele, in my opinion.

5) On to Zidane, you are ABSOLUTELY right about the timing of Zidane's highlights. People forget that up until the Finals in 1998, he did not do much. Though I'd argue that he has probably been the most consistent player during the knockout stages this time around.

But sometimes it matters more when you create highlights than how consistent you are. To cite an example from another sport, most people would agree that Joe Montana was better than Dan Marino when it's obvious that Marino has been way more consistent and durable during his lifetime. Yet people point to Montana's 3 SB MVPs as evidence of his greatness when they overshadow his rather pedestrian overall playoff numbers. Sometimes, clutchness counts more than consistency, especially when it comes to those one-offs like these finals. The winners get remembered, the losers, even if they have been more consistent throughout, don't. Is it fair? Probably not. And when engaged in this kind of conversations, I probably should take this into account a little more. That said, I still have no problems putting Zidane in the same class as Platini, and I don't particularly see Platini as some kind of a ceiling on where I can rank Zidane.

6) The best way I can describe Rivera is that when Pirlo found his calling as the deep lying midfield playmaker, a rather unconventional position, people described his role as "the Gianni Rivera role". More than 20 years after he retired, he is still the best to ever play that role.

7) You are right about Meazza, I completely forgot about him and those great Italian sides back then. But I will object to including Piola, since he played and scored more than half of his career goals at Lazio. Not just Lazio, but Benito Mussolini's Lazio. I don't know, just feels not right to me.

Anonymous said...

I don't know you guys probably wrote this few years ago. But here is my comment.
I believe all you guys are talking about players are from wikipedia. Most of you probably didnt see the games and players playing live. You read or watched highlights.

So I think you have some kind of unfair bias.

With records read I wont put anyone up there. and videos I have seen I am not sure. I would never put Platini as top French player. Forget all Best, Mathius, beken,puskas etc.

FOR ME:
1. Zidane
2. Messi
3. Pele
4. Maradona(may be)

I will explain.
Zidane was fluid, technical, ability, pass, attack, free kicks, slow but efficent, perfomed on big stage, fun to watch, tricker, people were afraid to go near him in fair of humiliation, control. I followed his all career since 1995.World cup and Euro cup on his own, France failed miserable without him. Great confidence and dominane in his play never seen of anyone.

2. Messi, speed, record, look how much he scores and he is humble about it. He will be considered the greatest if he wins world cup.

3.For his world cup recods(read), seen few videos... he was better than those players but dont think he could do that now, the game has since advanced and reached the peak.

4. He is a druggie and cheater. Steroid ran his feet and drugs make him a hooligan. But he had skills to watch.

I want to put Ronaldo (fat) on as 5, but towards the end of his career he failed miserable with worries and fatness. He got crapy. But he was the best striker of all time.

Please comment and ask with respect.

bergkamp, henry, Xavi, Vieira, Sukar, Totti, Del Piero, Stefano, Iniesta, Roando, Gerrard, eto comes in the about the same group.

Beckhams, most english players are overrated. Romario is the world's worst overrated player and a self promoter, Figo, Gaurdio..van Nistolroy, ownes were average.