The Myth of Maradona?

25 Mar

It’s long been the biggest debate in Football – who has been the greatest footballer of all time. The debate has generally included Pele, Cruyff, Best, Ronaldo, Zidane, and lately, Messi – but it’s usually Argentina’s Diego Maradona that comes out on top for the oft used line “he won things with poor teams”. Well I’m gonna look into the accuracy of that statement in an attempt to prove it’s relevance to the World’s greatest debate. The teams in question are Argentina’s World Cup winners of 1986, and Napoli’s Serie A winners of 1987 and 1990. I’ll put forward the data, will add my views and will let you decide:

It’s never really been in doubt. Growing up, my Dad told me the following ‘facts’ about football – Maradona was the best player of all time, George Best was the best player from UK & Ireland, and Alan Devonshire was the best player he saw for West Ham (though there was an honourable mention for Sir Trevor Brooking). And that was that. I had no reason to doubt any of that in the last 20+ years of watching football and from what I remember of Maradona in Italia 90 (especially this assist).

But

In my quest/obsession to discover the best big game players of all time, I noticed a few interesting things. I’ve been trawling through all of the data from World Cups, European Championships, Copa Americas, Champions League, Copa Libertadores, and UEFA/Europa League/Cup Winners Cup games and discovered that a) the Top 20 Big Game Players article is going to take me absolutely ages, and b) Maradona isn’t even in the top 25 Big Game players since 1980 (Semi Finals and Finals).

Argentina 1986:

The best place to start is his greatest achievement in football, and the tournament for which he will be most remembered. The idea that he singlehandedly took his teams to glory was created on the back of the World Cup win in 1986 with an “ordinary team”.

Firstly, the defence:

Titles are won built on solid defences, and regardless of whether you have the best player of all time in your team or not, you won’t win anything without a solid defence. As seen from the table above, letting in less than a goal a game will go a long way to winning the World Cup, and the Argentina 1986 team conceded just five goals in their seven games, including three clean sheets. The previous winners Italy conceded six, and West Germany also conceded five on the way to lifting the trophy in 1990.

Secondly, the squad. We’ve already seen the defence were certainly good enough to win a World Cup, and there were also some other noticeable players alongside Maradona. Whilst he top scored with five goals, Jorge Valdano of Real Madrid (no less) also weighed in with four, including one in the Final. Elsewhere there was also quality from Oscar Ruggeri, Jorge Burruchaga and Sergio Batista. This was by no means a squad without talent.

And what of Maradona’s impact? Well it is fair to say that he did have an amazing tournament. He scored one goal against Italy in the group stages, but it was the Quarter Final meeting with England that really won him the plaudits. He scored a brace against a country that Argentina had recently been at war with, including the best goal ever scored in World Cup football. Then in the Semi Finals against Belgium, he scored another brace in a 2-0 win to get his country to the Final. He also grabbed five assists meaning that he either scored or created 10 of Argentina’s 14 goals.

Is there any other player to so dominate a major tournament? Well yes, just two years earlier in fact. Michel Platini lifted the European Championship Trophy for France. Like Maradona, he was an attacking midfielder, but his impact was arguably bigger than Maradona’s in 1986. He scored 9 goals in 5 games for the French including the winner in the Semi Final and the opener in the Final. In fact his career record of 312 goals in 580 games is almost identical when compared to Maradona’s 311 in 589. Platini’s international record was 41 in 72 games compared to Diego’s 34 in 91. Yet France’s Euro 84 winners are best remembered for the midfield four or magic square of Platini, Alain Giresse, Luis Fernández and Jean Tigana. Not one player, despite his massive input.

There’s little doubt that Maradona was the player of the tournament, but did that mean that the rest of the team were poor?

Napoli 1987:

El Diego was celebrating again a year later as he was instrumental in winning Napoli’s first league title. Once again he had a big input in the team’s win. Though was he the one man team he’s made out to be?

Napoli were the best team in Serie A in 1986-87, they won the most games, lost the fewest, and had the best goal difference. They won the league by 3 points, when a win was only worth 2 points. First up – their league record in isolation:

Once again, we’ll start with the defence. As with Argentina’s 1986 World Champions, Napoli’s 1987 Serie A winners were built on one of the strongest defences in the league. Conceding just 21 goals in 30 games (0.7 conceded per game), meant that they had a great base to build on. Of the 30 games, they kept clean sheets in 16 of them. Only Inter Milan (3rd) conceded less goals that season, with 17. So it’s fair to say that the Title Win was built from the back.

Next up, Maradona’s team mates. The team that won the title that year, ended up with 167 Italian Caps between them – hardly average players. The defence contained a young Ciro Ferrara who went on to win a second title with Napoli, and then to won six more with Juventus, along with the 1996 Champions League. Also in the squad were Italian Internationals Salvatore Bagni, Fernando De Napoli, Bruno Giordano (more of him later) and Andrea Carnevale. Not too shabby.

So it’s been established that the team had a fantastic defence and had other quality in Italian internationals. What did Maradona bring? Well, he was the Top Scorer that season and brought 10 goals in 29 appearances – a one in three strike rate. Of the 10 goals, 2 of them were penlties and two of his goals were scored in a 4-0 win over Empoli. So his goals only affected 9 of Napoli’s 30 league games.

As Serie A was made up of just 16 teams that season, I’ve split the opposition range in Top 4, Middle 8 and Bottom 4, and looking at the above, there’s a glaring omission. As someone who is supposed to have singlehandedly won the league for Napoli, he didn’t score in any of the games against their immediate rivals for the titles – Juventus in 2nd, Inter in 3rd and Verona in 4th. His average ranked opponent per goal was just 10.5 out of a 16 team league. They took just one point from Inter and Verona (0-0’s thanks to the defence), and did the double over Juventus – 3-1 away and 2-1 at home. Despite being top scorer, Maradona was not amoungst the 5 goals. Big game player? Maybe not in that season.

Having looked at the opposition he scored against, and that just 8 were from open play/free kicks, how important were his goals? Well as you can see from the above table, his goals were worth 10 points to Napoli, although this doesn’t take into account the part played by the defence in keeping clean sheets. To put the 10 points into perspective, Robin van Persie’s goals this season have been worth 22 points after 29 games. Perhaps not quite he one man team that’s made out.

And lastly, what of the standard of the league that season? Well Napoli’s 45 points with a +20 goal difference would not have been enough for the title in either the season before or the season after.

Without taking away from the achievement, they won less points, less games and scored fewer goals of the previous and following Champions. They were still undoubtedly the strongest team in the 1986-87 season, but their final performance would not have won them the league in most seasons.

So in reflection of the 1986-87 season, it’s fair to say that whilst his contribution was certainly impressive, and he was certainly their best player, he didn’t by any means carry the team to the title. First and foremost, the defence were the foundations of the win, with 16 clean sheets. His team mates were by no means ordinary, and Maradona’s actual performance in the most important games were not the difference. Add to that the lower points tally that won the league and I think it’s fair to say that it was definitely not a one man show.

Napoli 1990:

After the glory of their first title in 1987, Napoli would only have to wait a further three seasons to win their second (and at the time of writing, last) Championship title. Once again, Maradona played a massive part in the 1990 triumph, in what was now a 34 game season (18 team league).

Once again, the title was built on a strong defence. In the 34 league games, they conceded just 31 goals, at a rate of 0.9 goals per game and 14 clean sheets. This was once again the second best defence in Serie A, second only to Milan. It’s once again fair to say that without this defensive display, Napoli wouldn’t have been Champions.

Moving on to his team mates, Napoli had strengthened since the 1987 title. Maradona could now list Brazilian International Careca amongst his team. The striker would score 73 goals for Napoli in just 164 games, as well as 29 in 60 appearances for Brazil. Playing alongside Maradona and Giordano, Careca made the final piece of the famous “Ma-Gi-Ca” attacking trio. Another new name from the 1987 triumph was a young Gianfranco Zola. The future Chelsea legend won the title in his first season with the Naples club. Elsewhere, the club had also strengthened in midfield, with another Brazilian international – Alemao, adding some steel in the middle of the park. In all, the 1990 Napoli squad contained players that would finish with over 280 caps for Brazil and Italy. Maradona was the brightest star, but by no means the only one.

And so after seeing another strong performance from the defence, and an improved squad, what was Maradona’s performance like? After starting the season at 29 – near the peak of most players careers, he enjoyed his best league season for the club, with 16 goals in 28 appearances:

 

That’s a bit more like it. He managed 5 goals against Top 5 teams including a goal against 2nd placed Milan, and a brace against Juventus. His average opposition was a decent 9.18 when the average excluding first placed Napoli is 10. When the big games came about, he stepped up. You can however point to 7 penalties in the 16 goals. His 16 goals, were worth 9 points to Napoli’s points total of 51.

And once again we can also point to the standard of the contenders that season:

For each of the surrounding seasons, Napoli’s haul of 51 points with a goal difference of 26 would agave meant 2nd place. So when looking at Maradona’s contribution, other factors such as the performance of rivals must be taken into account. 

So as with his triumphs in 1986 and 1987, Maradona was undoubtedly instrumental. But they were far from ordinary teams that relied solely on their talisman to inspire. Once again, the defence let in less than a goal a game, the squad had lots of quality in, and the level of opposition was lower than in surrounding seasons. At least in this season, you can point to Maradona’s performance in the big games to show his importance.

Other:

World Cup 1990 – He took Argentina to final but scored no goals

Copa Italia 1987 – 10 games, 7 goals as Napoli lifted the trophy

UEFA Cup 1989 – 3 goals in 12 appearances as they won the trophy

In Conclusion:

There’s no doubt that Maradona is one of if not the greatest footballer there has ever been, no one can argue against that with any real conviction. However, the notion that he’s the greatest because he won trophies with weak teams is not something that can be used in his favour. As seen above, although a key part in each of the trophies he won, he couldn’t have done it without strong defences behind him. He didn’t singlehandedly win the tournaments on his own, when his list of team mates include Valdano, Ferrara, Zola, Careca et al. He didn’t score in either of the World Cup finals he appeared in, and only one of the Semi Finals. When Napoli won the Copa Italia in 1987 over a two legged final, Maradona was not on the scoresheet despite a 4-0 aggregate win. He did score in the UEFA Cup Final win against Stuttgart, but that was from the penalty spot. Comparing him with the other greatest attacking midfielders and in the big games, he comes out a distant second to Zidane. Zizou had 3 World Cup Final goals, a World Cup Semi Final goal, a Champions League Final goal, and 4 in the Champions League Semi finals for good measure. You can also add in a semi final goal in Euro 2000. Maradona on his part has 4 goals in 12 Copa America appearances, which is a long way off Platini’s record in the European equivalent.

So when people point to Messi and say that he can never be considered the greatest because he didn’t win any tournaments with average sides, then who did? If Messi’s Argentina team had the defence that Maradona had behind him, then there’s a good chance they would have gone a lot further in the last two World Cups. The fact that Messi has played his whole career at Barcelona is not a reason to discount his claim to being the greatest.

So there you have it, I’m not disputing his place with the greats, but I would think twice before using the old one man team argument.

Any Maradona fans looking for more, then this is a great site for rare footage of Diego in his prime: http://wn.com/Maradona_87

Cheers,

Liam

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52 Responses to “The Myth of Maradona?”

  1. Greg Downs March 26, 2012 at 14:41 #

    Liam – the stats are very, very interesting and I defer to them accordingly. Personally I’d never have said Maradona was the best because of his record with lesser teams. The ‘greatest footballer’ argument boils down to what they can do with the ball. Nobody has ever shown Maradona’s fantastic, comic-book skills and ability consistently over many seasons. Messi is the closest of the modern age, and is still young enough to have a ‘body of work’ by the time he retires. For now, though, it’s got to be Maradona because of what he could do with the ball, in high-pressure scenarios, over much time.

    • lpcorbett March 26, 2012 at 14:46 #

      Hi (not) Greg. I can see your point about what he could do in high pressure situations – big games, but part of the reason for writing this was because I was surprised at just how little he bothered the score sheet in those big games. I know that he was as much about assisting as scoring, but for a
      Prolific goal scoring midfielder, generally regarded as the best, he didn’t pop up with a goal in the biggest games – Belgium ’86 aside.

      I can’t argue with you on his ability though.

      It turns out the most prolific big game player isn’t generally someone mentioned among the greats.

      • Jay June 14, 2012 at 16:28 #

        Ipcorbett, I’ll try do it point by point :

        1-When talking about contribution on big games you could not only take goals in account. In my opinion assists are also very

        important. An attacking midfield role is to create chances for himself, or for his team mates (assists, but also win penalty

        for example).

        2-For you big games are only semi-finals and finals, but quarter of finals in a world cup, Euro or europeen cups are also

        important (and sometimes more difficult). If you can neglect Maradona’s 2 goals against England (WC86)…you’re very special

        !

        3-Platini(Eu84)-Maradona(WC86) comparison :
        “Like Maradona…his impact was arguably bigger than Maradona’s in 1986”
        Platini scored 9 goals in 5 games, Maradona 5 in 7 games + 5 assists(4 in open play).
        Means 10 decisive contributions, in 7 games.
        In 1954 Kocsis scored 11 goals in 5 games
        In 1958 Fontaine scored 13 goals in 6 games.
        So in your opinion their impact was arguably the best ever in all WC and Euros ? Much bigger than Pelé(70), Maradona(86),

        Cruijff(74), Platini(84 🙂 which has generally considered as best ever ?
        Your “only goals” idea should end here…

        4-How could you compare Zidane to Maradona ?
        Even if I considere your idea of what is a big game (semi and final)
        WC98 – Zizou : 2 goals in the final.In the whole tournament 2 goals + 1 assists(not on open play) so contribution in 2 games,

        out of 5 as he missed 2!
        WC86 – Diego : 2 goals in semi final + the assist for the goal which gave the victory. In the whole tournament :5 goals + 5

        assists(4 in open play), contribution in 7 games, out of 7.

        In the European cup they won (remember that UEFA cup was not today’s Europa league)
        CL2002 – Zizou : 1 goal in final + 1 goal in semi.
        UEFA89 – Diego : 1 goal in final(penalty he won himself); 3 assists in semi(all in open play) + 3 assists in final(all in

        open play; final was played in 2 games).
        -opposition in big games:
        Zizou 2 goals in big games
        Diego 1 goal + 6 assists in big games.
        -opposition in the whole tournament:
        Zizou 2 goals
        Diego 3 goals (all penalties, 1 won) 8 assists(7 in open play)

        5-Miscellaneous :
        “When Napoli won the Copa Italia in 1987 over a two legged final, Maradona was not on the scoresheet despite a 4-0 aggregate

        win” : Maradona gave 2 assists (1 on the first leg for the second goal + 1 on the 2nd leg)

    • Peleisbetter April 14, 2012 at 22:30 #

      I disagree. Footballers job is to perform for their team and win titles. Football is not a juggling competition where the best is the one who makes more tricks and keeps the ball longer. It is like saying the best team is the one that has more possesion.
      The greatest footballer is the one whos accomplishments and performances distinguish him the most from his peers at first, and later compared to all players in history.
      Pele is with no doubt the most unique footballer. Nobody was even close to his accomplishments and complete skills. 760 official goals, 77 goals in 92 games for Brazil, and as many assists, starring in the highest level(World Cup) at 17 and averaging a goal a game no matter who he played.
      A player who by general consent was flawless in his game, with no weaknesses and a top athlete at the same time.

      • WC geniuses July 19, 2012 at 13:08 #

        i think these football experts on the following link pretty much sum up why the entire world of modern football considers maradona the best football player of all time except those who look for his character, lifestyle and few trophies including bureocrats and footballers.

        Having watched Pele at 1970 and Diego 1986 at the stadium both at their peak moments, Diego beats him by a mile away. Probably had the best singular performance we will ever get to see again despite being the most fouled and marked player in the history of the worldcup calculated by castrol anD FIFA as well. Record of 53-56 fouls.

        i can tell you all these teams focused solely on stopping maradona. they all built their strategies to stop maradona at his peak. England tried to do a china wall everytime diego got the ball, belgium tried to do the same but close to their defense area. Germany having watched england and belgium failed miserably at their attempts put two-players on maradona to mark him EVERY second of the game which they had to switch position, such thing hasn’t been seen in wc finals. The only reason argentina beat germany in that final was maradona, germany’s attack was seriously weakened and maradona moving all around the place destabilized the german’s line up this was mentioned by their captain matthaus when he was asked about it so its not my opinion. Also you can find the FIFA website 1986 documents what I said about england, belgium, etc. It’s a document where they describe the strategies they used to stop EL 10 done by FIFA, basically everything I just said word by word.

        At the end of the day, the little man played part in all three winning goals in that final against germany too. It was mind blowing. Pele in 1970 was not marked that good, only in the attack of Brazil. Even with that there were too many talented players to mark for poor italy.

        The Argentine team was good but not very good. They struggled to qualify lost many games before that WC and worst of all none of Diego’s teammates were chosen for the tournament’s best eleven despite being WC champions at that time, only one guy and you can guess Who.

        Maradona is the only player in the history of the worldcup to be the only one chosen from a WC champion team to the FIFA best 11, that was crazy.

        What I also noted is that Maradona 1986 participated in every single goal of argentina scored/assited 10 out of 14, and three more he either started the play or was heavily involved (created free kicks, killer pass, etc). There was only one lucky goal against bulgaria which maradona did not participate, it was a dumb goal too.

        Not to mention the fact that he overshadowed everyone’s performance to the point that he won the golden ball by an unanimous vote. You can check this in the fifa website as there was no silver ball or bronze ball in 1986. The only player in history to win by an unanimous vote, you can check FIFA’s website, there’s a big gap for bronze and silver ball in 1986 it’s all diego’s fault.

        According to raw statistics he also attemped or created more than half of argentina shots to the goal created twice as many free kicks as any other player and performed the most dribbles and runs in the entire history of the tournament, this was calculated by castrol statistics which FIFA relies on.

        There are more mind blowing stats and curiosities from that WC but I don’t remember them at this point. You guys should check them out. For example, the goal of the century which lineker just described again in a recent interview was very impressive too. The pitch was terribly bad and to have that ball control was just unbelievable. Not to mention he used the left foot the entire goal, not a single right foot touch and he was on the right side of the field.

        I hope we see Messi win the WC, he will never win it like diego did but that should be enough. I personally like him better than Diego or Pele and want messi to surpass Diego and become the best player of all time just like the experts at the youtube video in the link said.

      • WC ge July 19, 2012 at 13:36 #

      • Den August 31, 2012 at 14:40 #

        http://www.fifa.com/worldfootball/news/newsid=1321917.html#what+they+said+abo

        http://www.fifa.com/classicfootball/players/player=63869/quotes.html

        -Bobby Moore: “Pele was the most complete player I’ve ever seen, he had everything. Two good feet. Magic in the air. Quick. Powerful. Could beat people with skill. Could outrun people. Only 5ft 8in tall, yet he seemed a giant of an athlete on the pitch. Perfect balance and impossible vision. He was the greatest because he could do anything and everything on a football pitch. I remember Saldhana the coach being asked by a Brazilian journalist who was the best goalkeeper in his squad. He said Pele. The man could play in any position.”
        -Ferenc Puskas: “The greatest player in history was Di Stefano. I refuse to classify Pele as a player. He was above that.”
        -Romario: “Messi has all the conditions to be the best, but first he has to beat Maradona, Romario and then eventually Pele.”
        -Costa Pereira: “I arrived hoping to stop a great man, but I went away convinced I had been undone by someone who was not born on the same planet as the rest of us.” –
        -Michel Platini: “There’s Pele the man, and then Pele the player. And to play like Pele is to play like God.”
        -Eusebio: “Pele played in an era which had so many great players and in that atmosphere he stood out above the others. He was the complete player in every aspect as well as being a kind human being. Cristiano Ronaldo is young yet, and has many years ahead of himself. But as of now, I do not see anyone who can compare with Pele”
        -Johan Cruyff: “Pele was the only footballer who surpassed the boundaries of logic.”
        -Sir Bobby Charlton: “I sometimes feel as though football was invented for this magical player.”
        -Tostao: “Pele was the greatest — he was simply flawless. And off the pitch he is always smiling and upbeat. You never see him bad-tempered. He loves being Pele.”
        -Zico: “This debate about the player of the century is absurd. There’s only one possible answer: Pele. He’s the greatest player of all time, and by some distance I might add.”
        -Franz Beckenbauer: “Pele is the greatest player of all time. He reigned supreme for 20 years. All the others – Diego Maradona, Johan Cruyff, Michel Platini – rank beneath him. There’s no one to compare with Pele.” –
        -Tarcisio Burgnich: “Before the match, I told myself that Pele was just flesh and bones like the rest of us. Later I realised I’d been wrong.”
        -Cesar Luis Menotti: “The best of all was Pele, who is a mixture of Di Stefano, Maradona, Cruyff and Leo Messi.”
        -Gianni Rivera: “However, I do think there’s someone who was even better(than Messi) and that’s Pele. He used both feet on the pitch. He was as dangerous with his right as he was with his left. He was strong in the air as well, and created a lot of chances.”
        -Hugo Gatti: “Pelé had the skin of a player, head, pace, everything. He was a panther dressed in white, I played with him. He entered to play in the last minute and he could turn the match. And the big difference is that Pelé on the field created fear, Maradona not…For me, it is Pelé, Alfredo Di Stefano and Maradona, in that order. I appreciate Diego, he is a great player. But from another planet was Pelé, not him.”
        -Teófilo Cubillas: “I confronted him several times on the pitch and I think there will be noone like him.”
        -Mario Zagallo: “Pele represented everything in soccer because of what he has done on the pitch.”
        -Cristiano Ronaldo: “Pele is the greatest player in football history, and there would only be one Pele in the world.”
        -Geoffrey Green: “Di Stefano was manufactured on earth, Pele was made in heaven.”

    • St September 21, 2012 at 18:38 #

      Real difference Pele and Maradona made for Brazil and Argentina during their career, comparing games they played and games they missed.

      BRAZIL TOTAL WITH PELE(1957-1971)

      Matches Won Draw Lost For Against Difference Points Percentage
      92 67 14 11 235- 87 +148 148 (80.43)

      72.82% wins ,15.2% draw 11.9% lost

      average points per game: 1.6

      Brazil average goals scored per game: 2.55 conceded: 0.94
      Difference: 1.61 goals

      Average total goals per game: 3.5

      BRAZIL TOTAL WITHOUT PELE(1957-1971)

      Matches Won Draw Lost For Against Difference Points Percentage
      63 40 10 13 134 – 83 +51 90
      63.5% won, 15.8% draw 20.6% lost
      average points per game: 1.42
      Brazil average goals scored per game: 2.12 conceded: 1.31
      Difference: 0.81 goals

      Average total goals per game: 3.44

      ARGENTINA TOTAL RECORD WITH MARADONA (1977-1994)

      Matches Won Draw Lost For Against Difference Points Percentage
      91 42 29 20 137- 85 +52 113 62.09

      45.6% win, 31.8% draw, 21.9% lost

      average points per game: 1.24

      Argentina average goals scored per game: 1.5 conceded: 0.93
      Difference: 0.57 goals

      Average total goals per game: 2.43

      ARGENTINA TOTAL RECORD WITHOUT MARADONA(1977-1994)

      Matches Won Draw Lost For Against Difference Points Percentage
      94 42 32 20 130- 87 + 43 116
      44.6% win, 34% draw , 21% lost
      average points per game: 1.23
      Argentina average goals scored per game: 1.38 conceded: 0.92
      Difference: 0.46 goals

      Average total goals per game: 2.30

      Argentina with Maradona won only 0.81% more points(0.01 more points per game, 1.24 over 1.23) and had a goal difference of 0.11 goals better(20% better) than without him in the same period(1977-1994).
      Maradonas average goals per game: 0.37. 24% of Argentinas goals , 24% assists.
      48% participation in Argentinas goals.

      Brazil with Pele won 11.25% more points (0.18 points per game more than without him, 1.6 over 1.44), and had a goal difference by 0.80 goals better(99% better) than without him in the same period(1957-1971).

      In other words, Brazil could win many games without Pele since it had great players, but with Pele they became practically unplayable, improving both in attack and defence by a total of almost 100%!

      Pele scored 32% of Brazils goals. We do not know about his assists record. In World Cups he had 9 assists in 14 games, which is a ratio of 0.64 per game. If he had the same ratio in the other 78 Internationals that would give him around 69 assists, at a ratio of 29% of Brazils total assists -Brazil scored 235 goals in Peles 92 caps- and a 61% total participation(scored or assisted) in Brazils goals. Maradona had the same assist per game ratio in World Cups and in the rest of his International caps. Pele played 3 of his 14 World Cup games injured during half of the game though. Those were the games with Czechoslovakia 1962, and Bulgaria and Portugal in 1966. These injuries could slightly have reduced his World Cup assist record, therefore affecting the estimate for his total International career assists.

  2. John Mulholland April 9, 2012 at 03:06 #

    The measure of a great player is character, not ability.

    • lpcorbett April 9, 2012 at 10:11 #

      I think you need both. You can’t be considered one of the greatest without ability. Many players that have great character but wouldn’t be classed as a great. Though Maradona definitely had character and leadership to add to his undoubted ability.

    • Chris June 15, 2012 at 08:37 #

      I totally disagree with this, great character is a fantastic personal trait but a great football it doesn’t make. To my mind a great player is one that has great ability as well as the drive to utilise as much of that ability as possible.

      That’s why, in my humble opinion, Ronaldinho has missed the opportunity to go down as one of the greatest players of all time.

    • Den July 7, 2012 at 22:25 #

      @Jay
      quote: “Platini scored 9 goals in 5 games, Maradona 5 in 7 games + 5 assists(4 in open play).”

      Maradona gave 3 of his 5 assists in 1986 WC vs easy South Korea in the first match…
      Zidane was actually more important for France in 2006 WC.

      quote:”In the European cup they won (remember that UEFA cup was not today’s Europa league)”

      Actually European competitions from 1985 to 1990 where strongly weakened due to the English teams ban after the Heysel disaster.
      The European Cup was still the most prestigious by far, and in second place came the Cup Winners Cup. The winners of those two would even play the Super Cup matches.

      Skills:
      Maradona fans talk about skills, but football is not freestyling. In football the objective is to score goals so you win matches and titles. Maradona fans describe Maradona as a “god”, but he had too many flaws in his game for that, Maradona was a great playmaker, but there were many others just as good, even in his era(Zico, Platini) He had great dribbling, but if one checks his solo goals or plays in his career, very few of them were in crucial parts of a game. Pele on the other hand scored and assisted when needed the most.
      Maradonas finishing was far from Peles, and it can be seen well in 1982 World Cup where he played in a more advanced position. His heading ability and shot power was average. Messi for example has surpassed him already in that field.

      Here’s the 88/89 Serie A season assists of Maradona.
      assists 88-89 Serie A – YouTube

      88/89 12 assists
      Napoli 8-2 Pescara 3 assists
      Napoli 1-0 Cesena 1 assist
      Napoli 5-3 Juventus 1 assist
      Napoli 4-1 AC Milan 1 assist
      Napoli 4-0 Lecce 3 assists/one is indirect
      Napoli 1-0 Cesena 1 assist
      Napoli 1-1 Roma 1 assist
      Napoli 4-1 Torino 1 assist

      89/90 Maradona Serie A season assists:
      Maradona 89/90 assists in Serie A – YouTube

      89/90 16 assists
      Napoli 3-2 Fiorentina 1 assist
      Napoli 3-0 AC Milan 2 assists
      Napoli 3-2 Lecce 3 assists
      Napoli 1-1 Bari 1 assist
      Napoli 2-0 Bologna 2 assists
      Napoli 1-0 Ascoli 1 assist
      Napoli 1-0 Cesena 1 assist
      Napoli 2-0 Verona 1 assist
      Napoli 3-1 Juventus 1 assist
      Napoli 3-0 Bari 1 assist
      Napoli 4-2 Bologna 1 assist
      Napoli 1-0 Lazio 1 assist

      90/91 Diego assists in Serie A:
      Maradona assists 90-91 in Serie A – YouTube

      Napoli 2-1 Pisa 1 assist
      Napoli 1-0 Bari 1 assist

      Those stats cover the league matches, not international competitions or domestic cups.

      His assists in the previous seasons at Napoli were lower

      Comparison:

      Match winning goals:(goals that mattered as opposed to goals scored when the game was already in favor of the team. Although when the score is tight like 2-1, 3-2 scoring another goal is still very important)
      Peles goals gave Brazil directly 10 points(5 wins: v Wales 58, Bulgaria 66, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Italy 70) in 14 matches.
      Maradonas goals gave Argentina directly 5 points(2 wins: v England, Belgium and a draw: Italy 86) in 21 matches.
      2 of Peles 5 match winning goals were “solo”(noone assisted), his 2 free kicks which he also won.
      0 of Maradonas 3 match winning goals were “solo”(noone assisted). His individual goals vs ENG and BEL came when the score was already 1-0 in favor of Argentina.

      In total:

      Pele: 5 match winning goals in 14 games. (2 of those “solo”) 0.35 wgpg
      Maradona: 2 match winning goals in 21 games.(none were “solo” and one was the “hand of god”) 0.09 wgpg
      Pele contributed double in points: 10 over 5 and in 33% less games.
      Pele winning goals added: 10 points in 14 matches. 0.71 points per game for Brazil.
      Maradonas winning goals added: 5 points in 21 matches. Only 0.23 points per game!!!

      Maradona: 5 match winning assists(v Korea, Germany 86, Romania, Brazil 90, Nigeria 94) in 21 games. 0.23wapg
      Pele: 2 match winning assists(Mexico 62, England 70) in 14 games. 0.14wapg

      Maradonas assists gave directly Argentina 9 points in 21 games. 0.42 points per game
      Peles assists gave directly Brazil 4 points in 14 games. 0.28 points per game

      Adding the goals and assists(and arbitrarily accepting assists as worth as much as goals) we have:

      Pele: 0.99 Points per game from winning goals and assists.
      Maradona: 0.65 Points per game from winning goals and assists.
      adding 4 points for Peles 2 solo match winning goals of 0.28 ratio(4 points in 14 matches v Bulgaria and Czechoslovakia) which makes it

      Pele: 1.27 points and Maradona still at 0.65.

      This proves further that Pele was a much better big game player and also that he stepped up in the moment in those big games that was needed the most. Maradona was never as good in the crucial moments as in the less important ones. One example, his record assists(3) came in an easy game vs Korea in 86.

      • Jay July 10, 2012 at 14:51 #

        @Den

        “Maradona gave 3 of his 5 assists in 1986 WC vs easy South Korea in the first match…
        Zidane was actually more important for France in 2006 WC.”

        1-What was Maradona’s 5th assist ? The one which gave the victory against Germany in the Final.
        2-What did Maradona in the other games rather than giving assists ? He scored :
        One goal for draw against Italy – first round
        Two goals vs England – quarterfinals
        Two goals vs Belgium – semifinals

        So maybe he should also have done one assist in all these games for you to accept his importance in the tournament…

        Excuse me but…what did Zidane do in 2006 ? 3 goals :
        1rst vs Spain for a 3-1 victory at 90+2mn, when the match was finished ?
        2nd vs Portugal…a penalty he didn’t win !
        3rd vs Italy….another penalty he didn’t win !

        I hope you was not serious writting this comparison.

        “Maradona fans talk about skills, but football is not freestyling”. Zidane is just skills and freestyling.
        France won WC98 and Euro2000, and then was in Final in WC2006, what did he do ? Two headers on corner in the WC98

        final, and that’s it ! Nothing else, but penalties and 2 assists on freekick/corner…WOW !! What a key player !
        Pelé, Maradona, Cruijff, Zico did more in just one tournament than him in the whole 3 !!!

        I repeat what I wrote, UEFA cup was not today’s Europa league ! You could not compare a competition with 2nd, 3rd or

        4th of all countries (who are today in Champion’s league) to a competition whith 5th, 6th, 7th..etc
        Champion’s cup was the most prestigious, but cup winners ans UEFA also was. And I think you know that depending on

        the draw, it could have been easier to win C1, and most of all C2, than C3. In general C2 was the easiest to win. It

        had a prestige and the winner played supercup, because the participant won something (their national cup) this is

        normal; but it was the easiest to win.

  3. Paul Ward April 14, 2012 at 19:37 #

    I have analysed Pele’s performance at Santos for his career but particularly his 10 year peak 59-69. His instrumental in comparison to Maradona when added to side over when absent clearly shows the Maradona myth. This is shown below for Santos (only the higher standard Leagues)and Maradona in Europe. This dispells the myth massively.
    Listed below.
    I#ve analysed 10 years 59-69 of Pele for Santos at Brazils national, Intercontinental and Continetal Level with Maradona League 82-93 in Europe.

    These are for the National, International, Intercontinental Tournaments PELE DOMINATED 59-69

    Rio-Sao Paulo (4 Titles) 59,63,64,66

    National Brazil Title (6 Titles) 61,62,63,64,65,68

    Copa Lpertadores (2 Titles ) 62,63

    Intercontinental (2 Titles) 62,63

    Recopa Intercontinental (1 Title) 68

    15 Titles in 10 Years

    With Pele 139 Games 86 Wins 24 Draws 29 Defeats. Average 1.41 Points Per Game.

    Games in these tournaments without Pele. Rio-SP 6/5/59 Palmeiras 1-2 9/5/59 America 3-4 27/3/60 Palmeiras 0-0 31/3/60 Cornthians 1-2 2/4/60 Flamengo 0-1 7/4/60 America 5-4 14/4/60 Fluminese 2-4 16/4/60 Botafogo 0-3 19/3/61 Portuguesa 3-0 23/3/61 Palmeiras 1-1 29/3/61 Cornthians 0-2 19/4/61 Flamengo 1-5 23/4/61 Botafogo 1-2 31/3/63 Botaogo 1-3 29/3/64 Vasco 2-0 5/4/64 Bangu 2-1 11/4/64 Palmeiras 2-1 15/4/64 Portugueasa 2-5 19/4/64 Sao Paulo 4-1 13/3/65 Flamengo 1-1 27/3/65 Sao Paulo 1-3 31/3/65 Palmeiras 1-7 26/2/66 Sao Paulo 2-3 3/3/66 Prtuguesa 2-1 6/3/66 Flamengo 1-1 10/3/66 Fluminese 0-1 13/3/66 Botafogo 1-1 17/3/66 Bangu 4-0 20/3/66 Vasco 5-2 23/3/66 Palmeiras 3-2 27/3/66 Corinthians 0-0

    TACA and TACA DE PRATA National Games (6 Titles with Pele)
    3/3/60 Bahia 1-3 8/9/68 Athletico Paranase 2-3 5/10/69 Cruzeiro 2-3 8/10/69 Internacional 0-3
    29/10/69 America 1-1 26/11/69 Botafogo 0-0

    Copa Libertadores (2 Titles with Pele)

    25/2/62 Cerfo Portero 1-1 8/7/62 Universidad Cataoica 1-1 12/7/62 Universand Catolica 1-0 28/8/62 Penarol 2-1 2/9/62 Penarol 2-3 15/7/64 Idependeiente 2-3 22/7/64 Independiente 1-2

    Intercontinental (2 Titles with Pele)

    14/11/63 Milan 4-2 16/11/63 Milan 1-0

    Recopa (1 Title with Pele)

    16/4/68 Racing 3-2 19/4/68 Penarol 0-3

    Total record without Pele in these games 48 Games 15 Wins 10 Draws 23 Defeats 0.83 Points Per Game.

    So in these 10 Years 15 Titles

    With Pele 139 Games 1.41 Points Per Game.

    Wthout 48 Games 0.83 Points Per Game.

    70% Improvement 15 Titles FACT
    Maradonas Record in League in Europe (FOOTBALLDATABASE.EU)

    82/83 Barcelona 10W 6D 4L Without 7W 4D 3L

    83/84 Barcelona 10W 3D 3L Without 10W 5D 3L

    84/85 Napoli 10W 13D 7L

    85/86 Napoli 13W 11D 5L Without 1W

    86/87 Napoli 14W 12D 3L Without 1W

    87/88 Napoli 18W 6D 4L Without 2L

    88/89 Napoli 17W 7D 2L Without 1W 4D 3L

    89/90 Napoli 17W 8D 3L Without 4W 1D 1L

    90/91 Napoli 7W 4D 7L Without 4W 11D 1L

    92/93 Seville 10W 8D 8L Without 7W 1D 4L

    Record With 250G 126w 78D 46L 1.32 PPG
    Record Without 78G 35W 26D 17L 1.23 PPG

    Total Record in Europe with Maradona 1.32PPG without 1.23PPG, just 8% improvement.

    Pele makes 71% difference in his peak 10 years (59-69) to Maradona 8%

    • Cesar April 21, 2012 at 11:30 #

      Wow. Great Work!
      I know this is going to be a big ask but can you please do the same for Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Ronaldo Luiz Nazario de Lima?
      And maybe Xavi Hernandez and Carles Puyol.
      Or you could just tell me, is there an easy way to separate matches they have played in and in which they haven’t?

      BTW, have you got a blog?

      • lpcorbett April 21, 2012 at 14:16 #

        Hi Cesar, there’s an article comparing Ronaldo vs Messi vs Ronaldinho vs Romario vs Rivaldo – in the features category. There’s also a Messi vs Cristiano Ronaldo article in the Player Comparison link at the top of the page.

        To read the whole blog, just click on “Home”.

        Cheers,

        Liam

  4. Paul Ward April 14, 2012 at 19:42 #

    I used Peles autobiography for the list of the games he played.
    I then used rsssf.brasil website to find for list of Santos games, and from this got the games he missed.
    The difference is astounding, and totally dispels the myth Maradona fans use “Pele ony had good teams, Maradona won on his own”.
    It would be nice however to have a full list of Maradona games. I have been unable to find this, but FOOTBALLDATABASE.EU gave the record of his European Teams in the League in games he featured in, which was not overwhelmingly better than in the games he missed.

  5. LL April 17, 2012 at 08:58 #

    I looked up all of Maradonas and Peles matched with their National Teams and the ones they missed during their period as Internationals. The results show that Pele was missed more than Maradona, as Brazil had a much better output with Pele present.

    ARGENTINA TOTAL RECORD WITH MARADONA(1977-94)

    Matches Won Draw Lost For Against Difference Points
    91 42 29 20 137- 85 +52 113

    45.6% win, 31.8% draw, 21.9% lost

    average points per game: 1.24

    Argentina average goals scored per game: 1.5 conceded: 0.93
    Difference: 0.57 goals

    Average total goals per game: 2.43

    ARGENTINA TOTAL RECORD WITHOUT MARADONA (1977-94)

    Matches Won Draw Lost For Against Difference Points
    94 42 32 20 130- 87 + 43 116
    44.6% win, 34% draw , 21% lost
    average points per game: 1.23
    Argentina average goals scored per game: 1.38 conceded: 0.92
    Difference: 0.46 goals

    Average total goals per game: 2.30

    BRAZIL TOTAL WITH PELE(1957-71)

    Matches Won Draw Lost For Against Difference Points
    92 67 14 11 235- 87 +148 148

    72.82% wins ,15.2% draw 11.9% lost

    average points per game: 1.6

    Brazil average goals scored per game: 2.55 conceded: 0.94
    Difference: 1.61 goals

    Average total goals per game: 3.5

    BRAZIL TOTAL WITHOUT PELE(1957-71)

    Matches Won Draw Lost For Against Difference Points
    63 40 10 13 134 – 83 +51 90
    63.5% won, 15.8% draw 20.6% lost
    average points per game: 1.42
    Brazil average goals scored per game: 2.12 conceded: 1.31
    Difference: 0.81 goals

    Average total goals per game: 3.44

    Brazil with Pele won 11.25% more points and had a goal difference by 0.80 goals better or 99% better than without him in the same period(1957-1971).
    In other words, Brazil could win many games without Pele since it had great players, but with Pele they became practically unplayable, improving both in attack and defence by a total of almost 100%!
    On the other hand results show that Maradona added very little in results to Argentina looking at his whole career. Average points with him was 1.24 and without him almost the same, 1.23!
    1986 World Cup was the excpetion, a tournament where Argentinas altitude advantage(playing the whole tournament in Mexico City as opposed to Germany and England who playe in lower altitude until just a few days before meeting Argentina), referee calls favouring them(hand of god, offside calls vs Belgium) naturally as a Latin American team playing Europeans.

    • St September 21, 2012 at 18:41 #

      Correction of earlier post

      Real difference Pele and Maradona made for Brazil and Argentina during their career, comparing games they played and games they missed.

      BRAZIL TOTAL WITH PELE(1957-1971)

      Matches Won Draw Lost For Against Difference Points Percentage
      92 67 14 11 235- 87 +148 148 (80.43)

      72.82% wins ,15.2% draw 11.9% lost

      average points per game: 1.6

      Brazil average goals scored per game: 2.55 conceded: 0.94
      Difference: 1.61 goals

      Average total goals per game: 3.5

      BRAZIL TOTAL WITHOUT PELE(1957-1971)

      Matches Won Draw Lost For Against Difference Points Percentage
      63 40 10 13 134 – 83 +51 90
      63.5% won, 15.8% draw 20.6% lost
      average points per game: 1.42
      Brazil average goals scored per game: 2.12 conceded: 1.31
      Difference: 0.81 goals

      Average total goals per game: 3.44

      ARGENTINA TOTAL RECORD WITH MARADONA (1977-1994)

      Matches Won Draw Lost For Against Difference Points Percentage
      91 42 29 20 137- 85 +52 113 62.09

      45.6% win, 31.8% draw, 21.9% lost

      average points per game: 1.24

      Argentina average goals scored per game: 1.5 conceded: 0.93
      Difference: 0.57 goals

      Average total goals per game: 2.43

      ARGENTINA TOTAL RECORD WITHOUT MARADONA(1977-1994)

      Matches Won Draw Lost For Against Difference Points Percentage
      94 42 32 20 130- 87 + 43 116
      44.6% win, 34% draw , 21% lost
      average points per game: 1.23
      Argentina average goals scored per game: 1.38 conceded: 0.92
      Difference: 0.46 goals

      Average total goals per game: 2.30

      Argentina with Maradona won only 0.81% more points(0.01 more points per game, 1.24 over 1.23) and had a goal difference of 0.11 goals better(20% better) than without him in the same period(1977-1994).
      Maradonas average goals per game: 0.37. 24% of Argentinas goals , 24% assists.
      48% participation in Argentinas goals.

      Brazil with Pele won 11.25% more points (0.18 points per game more than without him, 1.6 over 1.44), and had a goal difference by 0.80 goals better(99% better) than without him in the same period(1957-1971).

      In other words, Brazil could win many games without Pele since it had great players, but with Pele they became practically unplayable, improving both in attack and defence by a total of almost 100%!

      Pele scored 32% of Brazils goals. We do not know about his assists record. In World Cups he had 9 assists in 14 games, which is a ratio of 0.64 per game. If he had the same ratio in the other 78 Internationals that would give him around 69 assists, at a ratio of 29% of Brazils total assists -Brazil scored 235 goals in Peles 92 caps- and a 61% total participation(scored or assisted) in Brazils goals. Maradona had the same assist per game ratio in World Cups and in the rest of his International caps. Pele played 3 of his 14 World Cup games injured during half of the game though. Those were the games with Czechoslovakia 1962, and Bulgaria and Portugal in 1966. These injuries could slightly have reduced his World Cup assist record, therefore affecting the estimate for his total International career assists.

      This proves Peles bigger contribution in his international career over Maradona.

  6. Brazuka April 27, 2012 at 14:04 #

    Maradona haters hahahaha.
    We all simply look at what he did with the ball and also how he won the 1986 WC, the greatest performance seen in the universe. that’s why most ppl think he is the best.

    Look at what he did in the opening match in 1990 wc before the game started.

    Not tittles but WAY more skills than anyone has ever seen. Had he had a really good team like Pele and not into drugs, who knows what would have happened. There was a point he had a DECENT team, that was in 1994, but we all know what happened.

    Too old, too drugged and FIFA on his ass.

    • LL May 2, 2012 at 09:47 #

      what he did with the ball many players could also do. Football is not freestyling. In football you have to score goals, win matches and titles, and many players achived more than Maradona.
      One succesful tournament, or one goal cannot decide the best player ever.
      Before the opening match in 1990? LOL how about what he did in the actual match, which was nothing against a 9 man rookies Cameroon!

      You cant argue with hypothesis, if this if that. Peles teams in total suffered more without him, that is a proven fact. Pele faced better teams in the World Cup and was much more consistent. Maradona failed in 1982, 1990, 1990 World Cups and in Copa America of 1979, 1987 and 1989 for Argentina.

      Pele greatly surpassed his teammates and competitors. If it was so easy many players would have achieved what Pele did.

      • Michael July 18, 2012 at 03:46 #

        I do not think Pele surpassed his teammates in all the tournaments he played in although he was the best of all of them his performance was not clearly better than them.
        1958, the golden ball went to didi.
        1962 garrincha won with no need of Pele
        1970 Jairzinho scored way more goals than Pele and according to raw statistics in FIFA statistics done by castrol. Jairzinho was better than Pele at that tournament.

        But Pele was the best player in the old era of football, no doubt it.
        As for the modern era of football it’s gotta be between messi or maradona.

  7. fito May 3, 2012 at 15:14 #

    1. Platini comparison is a bad one. 1st, Euro is nowhere close to world cup. 2nd, the quality of goals Platini scored are even further nowhere close to that of Maradona’s.

    2. have you ever heard that a great player make his teammates better? Most, if not all players you mentioned in Napoli and Argentina were made much better or looked much better than they actually were by Maradona.

    3. football score is all about opportunities. Someone are good at catching opportunity, such as van Basten. Someone are good at creating opportunities for himself, such as Brazil’s Ronaldo. Someone are good at creating opportunities for others, such as Xavi. Doing all three at the untouchable level, Maradona is the only one.

    4. Don’t mention Peli to me.. He might be as as good as Ronaldo, at the best. He is just a pet of corrupted FIFA. FIFA, along with world Olympic committee are the most corrupted organization in the world.

  8. lpcorbett May 3, 2012 at 22:35 #

    Not sure how this turned into a Maradona versus Pele debate but I’m sitting on the fence for this one for now! Happy arguments all!

  9. skywalker May 10, 2012 at 21:32 #

    this is as flawed a statistical comparison that one can do. since you are a numbers guy, will break it down both from a qual and quant perspective.

    Qualitative:

    1. Maradona is NOT a scorer. Yes, he scored goals but he was far more influential on proceedings through his passes, movement (and of those around him) and his ability to penetrate into space and create openings. He was an old school 10, not a 9 and not a modern false 9.

    2. What stats don’t show is Maradona dictating a game without scoring / assisting teammates, much in the manner that Zidane, Roman and Xavi have done; which is to control rhythm and tempo; and what separated Maradona from the rest is that he could do so at speed and dribble into opposition territory whereas the other pivots could not.

    The one thing that destablizes defenses more than anything else is a guy dribbling into the teeth of the D – that is what Maradona did and moreover, at a time when it was very difficult to do so because of the rules enforced.

    Quant

    1. For anyone making statistical claims, to neglect standard of opposition relative to a baseline makes a lot of the comparisons meaningless.

    Maradona’s career overlapped some of the biggest changes in the game. The average distance covered by a player doubled in the span of time Maradona played in. The balls started to get better. Pitch standards were enforced. Defensive unfarir play started to get punished. Basically, Maradona was able to transition his from from the dead ball era (where many goals were scored from PK/FK) to the live ball era (end of sweeper, new synthetic balls, better pitches, etc.)

    2. Your comparison is just based on goals/assists, that is not a true reflection of a player. But even if you were to do so, you cannot compare Maradona to the total goals scored of his team and then compare it to another player playing in a different era as you fail to account for the statistical differences between the seasons.

    To make a true comparison, if you calculate his defense weighted value over replacement player, defense adjusted wins above replacement player, defensive weighted win shares and marry those statistics to even a basic Pythagorean win expectation for Napoli / Argentina in the years Maradona played in, you will find why he was one of the best of all time.

    • Paul Ward May 11, 2012 at 15:32 #

      I know these wins above replacement etc. very well thy are used in American Sports, particularly Basketball. If youre interested Basketball on Paper and John Hollinger books are useful. I also have Pro Football Prospectus.
      This is possible in basketball as they use many statistics and also subbing can show players scores on and off pitch etc. It is also made possible by high numbers such as 100 each. Football is much more difficult due to the low scores.
      Failing any other statistic, Peles record at Santos to when he is absent from the team is still more impressive although particularly his first few years at Napoli I believe Maradona also made much difference. Unfortunately from 84-88 he only missed 4 games so this can’t be established.
      Records with to without is the only stat that can be used (unless all games have all players which they don’t) and when a comment ‘Pele had good teams Maradona wins alone’ is all that needs to be used to debunk it.

      • skywalker May 11, 2012 at 17:58 #

        I used to work at the books in Vegas, so yes, familiar with the books / people you mentioned. And we expanded on those and had our own soccer equivalent methods to rate soccer players.

        Thing is, the 80s to early 90s are extremely hard to assess a soccer player’s worth compared to different eras, in part due to the changes in the game that I mentioned in my earlier. So many times in this period we came across situations where there was no discernible difference in won/loss/draw records when a star player played/didn’t play.

        There were a lot of reasons for this, most stated above but specifically on the defensive side of the ball. In the 80s, more freedom given to defenders and defensive tactics finally evolved to match what the modern game now has built on. The 80s augmented the 60s catenaccio system; basically the counter to the Uruguay ==> Maygars ==> Ajax ==> Total Football revolution of the 70s

        All these contributed to this period in history being comparatively the easiest of all previous and subsequent decades to draw matches and where goals per game were generally down relative to other eras by >1 SD.

        If the 60s/70s developed offensive systems out of the old 5-3-2 into a more collective, pressing and more modern offense, the 80s produced the tactical and zonal marking systems that have been the foundations for the modern game. Moreover the old offside and backpass rules allowed for the sweeper system to effectively neutralize opposition’s offences.

        And again, why to be able to dominate in that era, my hat goes off to people like Maradona, Platini, Guilt, etc… when in truth, the 80s belonged to defensive stalwarts, the likes of Baresi, Bergomi, Lothar, etc…

    • Paul Ward May 11, 2012 at 16:00 #

      http://waitingfortheequalizer.blogspot.co.uk/2010/07/hand-of-god-and-god-himself.html

      Here’s a site you may like regarding Maradona/Pele which uses a few more stats and the workings are provided.

    • Den July 7, 2012 at 22:11 #

      whatever you say about stats and what we should consider when comparing players, in the end we have to see the results with and without the player. It is proven that both Argentina and Napoli had fairly good results in the matches that Maradona missed.
      Pele was more missed by Santos especially, and less so by Brazil. Also as it is generally accepted Peles teams were better than Maradona(an arguement Maradona fans use a lot) which means that Pele had a bigger contribution even though he had some great teammates to compete for glory with. An example: Garrincha had to wait for Pele to be injured in 1962 to be the MVP of tournament while playing for Brazil.
      Maradona was an attacking midfielder and second striker so goals and assists are a very good way to see his contribution.
      Comparing him to very similar positioned players of his era who also played in the same league like Platini and Zico is a good way to get an idea. Maradonas achievements are not that much more impressive than Platini. What makes the difference in 1986 world cup match vs England and the fact that Napoli sounds like a small team, when actually Napoli was a team with money and ability to attract great players in the 80s.

      • Michael July 18, 2012 at 03:42 #

        A playmaker’s, a true and old school number 10 is not evaluated by goal scoring and assists. Look at the games maradona played in, he started the play. He saw the opening and gave a perfect pass to a player who wasn’t in a very good position. That player EASILY assisted the other player to score. Examples? Hmm I think the UEFA cup’s final with maradona assisting and creating all 3 goals, regardless if he gave a direct pass to the scorer. The final of the wc in 1986 is also another clear example, he was involved in all three winning goals. The first one was a free kick that he himself created after trying to dribble through them. The second one is controlling the play even though he was heavily marked with two guys, he couldn’t even breath during that final. The third one was in my opinion the greatest assist of all time. Surrounded by 4 germans without even looking at the player “Burruchaga” and he gave a perfect pass calculated to pin point precision so that he did not have to change speed for the ball. The scorer simply kept running as if he always had the ball on his feet.

        Also maradona’s career was plagued with injuries, problems and most of all cocaine. We probably saw a half of what maradona was really capable of unfortunately.

        Sheer ability and raw skill with the ball goes to maradona.
        Consistency, stats and trophies goes to Pele no question.

      • Den August 31, 2012 at 14:11 #

        There are a lot of misconceptions here. First people labelling Pele a “scorer” and Maradona a midfielder.
        Pele and Maradonas positions were not that different at all. What was different was Pele much superior scoring ability. The ability to use both feet inside the box
        Pele played a very deep position even in his early days. Even watching the matches in 1958 World Cup Pele is seen as a deep playmaker/forward who created as much as he scored. Just from the clips on youtube with Pele´s matches one can see his positioning. 6 direct assists in 6 matches in 1970, 1 assist in 2 matches in 1962 and 1 assist in 1958., his speed, heading ability among others explains Peles scoring.
        There are many clips of Pele which show his positioning clearly:




        As can been seen in the videos, most of the times Pele received the ball it was around the midfield, where he began the offensive play, sometimes receiving the ball back to score himself.

        Maradona had a very good scoring record in Argentinos Juniors and Boca, but it declined drastically in Europe. Maradona played as a second striker in most of the 70s and 80s, can be seen very clearly in 1982 World Cup matches.
        Maradonas dribbling was often in the midfield too, marked by midfielders rather than the best defenders. Even one of his most famous marksmen Matthaus was not a defender.Maradona was good at keeping the ball, but very often causing no threat.

        Career plagued with injuries? That sounds like an excuse, all players have many injuries. Maradona had one serious one in Barcelona, but in his Napoli years he was fine. What should Ronaldo say then? Or even Van Persie and Robben?
        Pele was unluckier actually, since two of his injuries came in World Cups in his best years, and with very little referee protection at the time.

      • Den August 31, 2012 at 14:22 #

        correction: *Pele and Maradonas positions were not that different at all. What was different was Pele much superior scoring ability. The ability to use both feet inside the box, heading ability, outrunning defenders

  10. lpcorbett May 13, 2012 at 23:38 #

    Just a quick response on some of the above comments:
    Skywalker – “you will find why he was one of the best of all time” – I haven’t once said anywhere that he isn’t one of the best of all time, I’d suggest that anyone that doesn’t consider him one of the greatest an idiot. However, I’m questioning the idea that he was a one man team.

    In regards to the Pele vs Maradona debate, I don’t think you can compare an out and out goalscorer to an attacking midfielder/deep lying forward. I do however think that the Platini comparison is valid. Looking at their club stats, they’re near identical.

    Fito “Platini comparison is a bad one. 1st, Euro is nowhere close to world cup”. Argentina faced two non European Teams – Uruguay and South Korea. They had to beat England, Belgium and West Germany in the knock out games, whilst drawing with Italy in the group stages. All European teams.

  11. ian June 7, 2012 at 14:23 #

    maradona was brilliant but not as prolific as messi.messi has at least as many assists as maradona and scores far more goals ,so i cant understand the argument .in my view the world cup is 12 games ,the club season plus the champions league is over 6 months or more ,messi is far more consistent than maradona was,i have seen both .we always compare messi to himself as no one currently can compare,but his performances in his last few internationals have surely dispelled the myth he cant perform at international level ,23 goals and 21 assists,73 goals in one season for barca ,what more has the kid got to do

  12. klser July 31, 2012 at 06:24 #

    I don’t have enough time to read and reply but I will try my best. First of all, I think what the writer tries to present is flawed and illogical when used with football the mix of art and science. For the WC86, you claim that the Argentine defense was very good and I agree. But when I rewatch the games I think they are pretty sloppy but lucky not to concede more goals.

    Moreover, see these FIFA all star teams
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FIFA_World_Cup_awards#All-Star_Team
    Argentina won the cup but Maradona was the only one from the team who is selected for the all star team. This happened only in WC86. I never deny that the Argentina squad in 1986 was quality anyway.
    Another point, Valdano was a striker and supposed to score more goals than Maradona . See this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zh1HlntQzeI at 8.10. You will see how disappointed the commentator was. He delivered several clear assists such as in the games against Belgium and Uruguay which his teammates couldn’t finish them properly. I recommend you to watch this youtube channel http://www.youtube.com/user/xiehao74, the best WC performer that even Pele cannot compare. It is over exaggerated to say that he won the cup singlehandedly but, if anyone is close to such situation, it is Maradona in WC86 only.

    For Napoli, please see this thread from bigsoccer:
    http://www.bigsoccer.com/community/threads/serie-a-rankings-legione-straniera-1980-87.1811217/
    Since the arrival of Maradona, Platini never had better rating than him. The Juve team with Platini was inferior to Napoli head to head. And, it was Napoli who ended the unbeaten record at home of Juve in 86/87 season and they took the league trophy for the first time in their history. Maradona didn’t score in that game (you may be disappointed lol) but he is the general who woke up his teammates while trailing 1-0 (scored by Laudrup) and led them to the victory. Also, I think Platini prematurely retire at the age of 32 because he could not adapt to the zone pressing system reinvented in the mid of 80’s. Maradona, on the other hand, had no problems with the new system at all.

    • lpcorbett July 31, 2012 at 12:39 #

      Klser, thanks for the post and the in depth research!

      The point I was trying to make wasn’t about who’s made the biggest contribution to a trophy win, but that there’s a myth saying that Maradona was the best because he did it with so called weak or poor teams. That’s the myth i’m trying to break.

      I agree completely that he had a massive impact, no one could doubt that, nor that he’s one of the greatest of all time.

      With regards to Platini, he was 32 when he retired, and whilst there was a change in systems, Maradona was able to adapt because he was only 26, and a lot of his goals were from set pieces. If you say the change was from the mid 80s, Platini scored 52 Serie A goals from 1983-87 compared to Maradona’s 46 over the same time (one season in La Liga). Though admittedly Platini only got 2 goals in his last season, due to injury, which no doubt contributed to his early retirement.

    • St September 21, 2012 at 18:33 #

      Platini was old and close to retirement when Maradona rised for Napoli. Only in his third year Maradona won the League, in his first season there Napoli came 8th in Serie A.

      Your arguements for Valdano are very shallow. Valdano was still a Real Madrid player in the 80s and it was actually Burruchaga who was second scorer of Argentina in 1986 with 4 goals and a few assists as well. Maradona provided 3 of his 5 assists against South Korea, a weak opponent.
      In the Castrol Rankings Maradona has the highest score for 1986(9.82 average points) but 4 more Argentinians are in the top 10 for that World Cup. Counting since 1966 when Castrols calculations started, Beckenbauer 1966, Cruyff, Lato 1974, Kempes 1978 and Ronaldo 2002 all surpass Maradonas Castrol index.

      Pele had a good team, but it is not his fault, He still performed at top level in all his uninjured World Cups, unlike Maradona. Pele faced the best national teams in German, Italian and English history and the best goalkeepers and defenders ever: Yashin, Banks, Moore, Beckenbauer…
      in 1966 Gerson, Jairzinho, Garrincha all failed with Pele injured.
      in 1962 Brazil was not threatened by Europeans, unbeaten in World Cups held in the americas since 1930 to europeans!

      • Ronnie November 17, 2012 at 14:11 #

        Pele was not an out and out striker he was also a classic number 10 like Maradona, he just used to score a lot. He was nothing like a Ronaldo or Romario who would be the furthest forward on the pitch.

        To win any trophy you need to have a good defence. You can have the best attack in the world but if you’re leaking easy goals then you will lose. Look at Brazil in 1982, they had the best attack but a poor defence and goalkeeper. Italy in 2006 had an average attack but a rock solid defence. Argentina in 1990 scored only 5 goals and conceded only 4.

        Sure Maradona was probably the most skilful player of all time along with Ronaldinho but that doesn’t mean he was better than Pele who was also a very skilful player.

        Messi is not as skilful as Ronaldinho but he is more effective and a much better finisher.

        Maradona was not that good a finisher, I’ve seen many of his dribbles where he would get into great positions but narrowly miss the target whereas Pele would score. It’s the same with Ronaldinho, Messi is the better finisher.

  13. Ronnie November 17, 2012 at 14:34 #

    Also Maradona cheated twice in the World Cup. In 1990 he also did a handball in the 2nd round against USSR to stop a goal on the line. If the linesman had seen it (he was only 5m away) then Maradona would have got a red card and USSR would have got a penalty, Argentina would have been knocked out. The guy had a lot of luck on his side.

    Personally I think there were players who were just as good as him like Zico but they did not have his luck.

    • Jay November 18, 2012 at 16:20 #

      Sorry but Maradona was not as lucky as many of other great players. Pele, Cruijff, Platini, Zico etc…had the chance to be part of exceptionnal player’s generations, both with their countries, and their clubs who provided the most players in the beginning line-ups in national teams of the country. Countries who had great results at these times, except Brazil in 1982, but everyone knows that it was the best team of early 80s. Platini’s Juventus was made of 5 WC winners of 1982.

      Pele had this chance twice with his national team : the 1958-62 generation and in 1970.

      • Ronnie November 19, 2012 at 23:25 #

        Maradona played for a good defensive team that would do anything to win. They would sell their mother to win. Just look at the 1990 team. It cheated and played for penalties.

  14. Jay November 20, 2012 at 21:52 #

    To Ronnie :
    You’re right, Argentina team in 1990 was very defensive and not so strong, just like Argentina 86. The difference was that on a physical point of view, Maradona was no more the same player…if he was the same guy, he would have won the 90 WC too.

  15. Tanvir December 4, 2012 at 14:24 #

    Nonsense… TOTAL BULLSHIT written by an amateur who claims of watching 20+ years of football but intentionally attacks the most the greatest footballer anybody has ever seen.

    Maradona—— Given the stage, given the statement of intent and given the staggering number of players left in his wake, there has probably never been a great illustration of individual excellence as Diego Maradona’s second goal against England in 1986.

    And yet, as unlikely as the run was, there was still a sense of inevitability and destiny about it. Because, as complete as Pele might have been and as innovate as Johan Cruyff was, no-one quite had the elemental mastery of a ball that Maradona possessed.

    “I remember our early training sessions with him,” former Barca teammate Jose Carrasco said. “The rest of the team were so amazed that they just stood and watched him. Only he could create such a feeling of expectation.”

    But the anomaly is that it took until 1986 for Maradona to properly fulfil it. Although he was only 25 at the time, it is incredible to think now how dubious his claims to true greatness were before that World Cup. Essentially, you can take the existing caveats about Leo Messi’s performance in the same tournament and multiply them by five.

    At that point, Maradona had only won a solitary Argentine title and a Spanish cup, despite starting his career at 15 – the same age as Pele.

    It was such parallels – as well as such ability, of course – that brought eternal comparisons with his Brazilian predecessor.

    But, in truth, Pele faced far fewer obstacles than Maradona.

    While both made their international debuts before the 1958 and 1978 World Cups, respectively, Argentina’s Cesar Menotti didn’t quite have the faith in youth that Vicente Feola did 20 years earlier.

    As such, Maradona remained something of a rumour. While Pele got to announce his talent.

    On a similar level, the Brazilian began his career at one of his country’s biggest clubs. By contrast, Argentinos Juniors had never won a professional title. And even when Maradona delivered a title to Boca Juniors in his only season there early on – thanks to 28 goals in 40 games – he arguably made the wrong move in going to Barcelona.

    At that point, the Catalan club were often more moral victors than the outstanding champions of today. Still without a European Cup, Barca saw more decade-long droughts than league titles and seemed to perpetually stumble from crisis to crisis. And it was into another that Maradona walked in 1982.

    Biographer Jimmy Burns wrote that “in Spain, both during the World Cup and in Barcelona, Maradona’s game had often been so undermined by bad refereeing as to become almost unplayable.”

    Indeed, an infamous Andoni Goikoetxea assault put him out of action for three months in 1983-84. And that only followed a bout of hepatitis in his first season as well as an ongoing personality clash with president Josep Lluis Nunez. Because of so many external complications, Alfredo Di Stefano argued that Barcelona only saw 20% of Maradona’s full potential.

    But it was still enough to score 38 goals in 58 games. Still enough to beat Real Madrid in a Spanish cup final. Still enough for Bernd Schuster to argue with Steve Archibald about who wouldn’t wear the number-10 shirt in his departure.

    It was also still enough for Carrasco to see what really drove the player.

    “When I was with him he seemed all too conscious of his roots. I’d realised how much he’d struggled to get where he was and how much he felt he still had to achieve to secure his family’s future.”

    It was a narrative arc that was to apply to his greatest achievements.

    Because, when Maradona went to Napoli in 1984, they had only won a solitary cup in their history. They were the unloved urchins of Italian football.

    At the same time, Argentina hardly looked like world champions. They had won less than 40% of their matches in the four years leading up to the 1986 World Cup. Worse, they didn’t even have a system.

    And, yet, Maradona lifted both to the greatest heights in their histories.

    Because this is the real point about his career. In Mexico, Maradona didn’t just fulfil expectation. He finished it.

    As Hugh McIlvanney wrote of the tournament, “Never before has the talent of a single footballer loomed so pervasively over everybody’s thinking… Maradona’s impact goes far beyond the simple realisation that he is indisputably the best and most exciting player now at work in the game. It is in inseparable from the potent sense of declaration inherent in almost everything he has done in the field here in Mexico.”

    Sure, Michel Platini’s goals may have been statistically more decisive in Euro 84. But, quite simply, no one influenced an individual tournament like Maradona did in 1986.

    But, as emphatic as his five goals were – from the Hand of God to the highlight reel against Belgium in the semi-finals – it was a more understatement performance in the final that truly illustrated the depth of his quality.

    Throughout the game, Lothar Matthaus was charged with man-marking Maradona. But, realising that playing his normal game in such restrictive conditions would greatly diminish – and damage – his team, Maradona decided to go so deep so as to draw Matthaus from his anchor role and completely destabilise the Germans.
    It worked perfectly as Argentina roared into a 2-0 lead.

    Typical of the Germans, though, they exploited the team’s main weakness by scoring twice from set-pieces. But it was to prove their momentum. With momentum behind them, West German abandoned their restrictive approach in order to win the game.

    Instead, it took Maradona just three minutes to exploit the extra space. With a divine through ball for Burruchaga, he settled the World Cup.

    Four years later, Maradona would prove almost as impressive as he dragged Argentina to the final again. And, in between, he won Napoli the first two titles of their career as well as the Uefa Cup.

    Given their history of failure, it is arguably the player’s equivalent of Brian Clough lifting Nottingham Forest to a European Cup.

    And most impressively, amid the shackles of Italian football at the time, Maradona sustained his irrepressible, evasive style of play.
    Of such moves in general and the goal against England specifically, Maradona once said “I seemed to be able to leave everyone behind.”
    He may as well have been talking about football history.

    Maradona always was and will be the greatest in his own way. He was a leader, a visionary, a fierce patriot. Think 1000 times before writing such a disgusting article.

    • lpcorbett December 4, 2012 at 14:42 #

      “Nonsense… TOTAL BULLSHIT written by an amateur who claims of watching 20+ years of football but intentionally attacks the most the greatest footballer anybody has ever seen.”

      I think you’re missing the point here. I never once say he’s not the greatest player of all time. I say that it’s a myth that he did it with crap teams. Where’s the intentional attack?

      A couple of choice extracts from my piece which you don’t appear to have read:

      “It’s fair to say he had an amazing tournament……..there’s little doubt that Maradona was the player of the tournament”

      “Maradona was the brightest star”

      “there’s no doubt that Maradona is one of if not the greatest footballer there has ever been”

      A real hatchet job.

      I don’t claim to be anything other than an amateur, so not sure why you’re over reacting in such a way, and not sure why you’ve just copy and pasted a large chunk of the football pantheon piece on him.

      Thanks for reading, but no need to be an idiot because you disagree with someone’s opinion.

      • Tanvir December 5, 2012 at 06:16 #

        I’ve read all your comments and it seems you are deliberately discrediting maradona in every single point.

        Don’t try to fool me by showing 2-3 lines in which you complemented maradona.. throughout the whole article you have illogically attacked maradona for claiming that he did not score in “BIG GAMES”… and worse, this article has invited the maradona-haters to belittle him even more….

        you talk so heavily of platini,,, his juventus was made up of 5 WC winners from 1982.. add to that, their rich history of serie A, which is in sharp contrast to napoli, who had only won a solitary Italian Cup before maradona.. at that time in the 1980s, there were legendary teams, Van Basten’s Milan, platini’s Juve, Matthaus’s Inter, Zico’s Udinese.. yet it was maradona’s napoli who went to win their first titles in history..

        you say about scoring in big games(semi-finals and finals).. does the semi-final always have greater importance than quarter-final??? Was the belgium-argentina semifinal, by any stretch of imagination, more improtant than England-argentina quarter final??? Is USSR-Holland final in 88 Euro more important than Germany- Netherland semifinal????? you’re such a genius that talking about BIG GAMES, you deliberately left out the legendary 1986 quarter-final where maradona performed at his very peak.. i have actually given credit to you by stating that you’re an amateur but actually you are below than that. you foolishly claim that maradona didn’t score in big games, and you completely ignore the insane amount of assists that he provided… you such an idiot who thinks only goals can decide a player’s greatness..

        you comment on “one-man team”??? i never say that napoli and argentina was a one-man team, sure burruchaga,valdano had contributions but Maradona’s impact in argentina and napoli goes way beyond his teammates.. such was his impact that after he was banned in 1994 world cup, argentina immediately lost 2 consecutive matches and were out. Maradona played first 2 matches and argentina won both of them. after he left napoli, napoli went to relegation a few season later. Pele played with the biggest club Santos and had legends with him in brazil… while valdano,burruchaga are only good players but not legends.

        maradona never played with “CRAP” teams and this is always a fact and never a myth.. Pele always played in a legendary team and this also a fact..

        To conclude, this is a foolish article written to break a so-called “,MYTH” (which is actually not) and has largely belittled the contributions of a legend like maradona..

  16. Pete January 2, 2013 at 18:20 #

    You should just listen to what your father says. Imagine being the top scorer with 10 goals in 29 games. The Italian league was best at that point and all teams were strong defensively. These players that played with maradona were average at best BUT, messi has Xavi, ineasta and company. He has tevez, aguero, higuain and company for the national team.
    Zizou was great. Imagine having Henry, trezeguet, deschamps, makalee etc.. For the national team. And do I need to mention The Real players he played with. Maradona never had the supporting cast these players had. List the international caps zizou played with.
    As a human maradona did a lot of things wrong. As a footballer he was the absolute best.

    • lpcorbett January 2, 2013 at 20:24 #

      Ha ha, I did listen to my Dad, and I agreed. I just think the idea that he did it with poor teams was worth a review. He was undoubtedly their best player, but by no means a one man team.

      • Jay January 16, 2013 at 14:58 #

        In fact it depends on what you mean when talking about one man team…

  17. lpcorbett January 31, 2013 at 00:15 #

    Hi all, these comments are now closed – the above have been moved to the new home of the site: http://www.averageopposition.com/2012/03/the-myth-of-maradona.html?showComment=1359587655194#c4514604844830373467

    Cheers,

    Liam

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