Lionel Messi is 'Tom Finney reborn', says Tommy Docherty

Former England winger Sir Tom Finney celebrates his 90th birthday on Thursday, with Preston team-mate Tommy Docherty insisting the only player worthy of comparison to him is current Barcelona forward Lionel Messi.

Finney won 76 caps for England during a career in which he racked up nearly 200 goals from the right wing for North End, at a time when the Lancashire club were routinely pushing for honours at the highest level.

But it is not just Messi's prodigious dribbling ability and unselfish streak that marks him out as a modern-day Finney, according to Docherty. He believes they share the same sporting ethos.

The former Manchester United manager told BBC Sport's Late Kick-Off: "Lionel Messi is a young Tom Finney.

"He reminds me of him with his attitude, the way he plays. You never see him involved in any unsavoury things, you never hear him criticising anyone, and that was Finney.

"To me Messi is Finney reborn.

Sir Tom Finney in numbers

Sir Tom Finney
  • 76 England caps
  • 30 England goals
  • 433 league appearances
  • 187 league goals
  • Two Footballer of the Year awards

"He was a diamond. If I was a manager and was able to buy any player who has played the game, I would buy Finney."

Born in Preston in 1922, Finney had to wait for a professional debut that was delayed by the outbreak of World War II but he soon became a staple of the England set-up, scoring 30 goals for his country and playing in three World Cups.

He finished his career without a major honour to his name, but left his mark on his peers - including England's record goalscorer Sir Bobby Charlton.

Charlton told BBC Sport: "I used to look at him and think, this is fantastic.

"Watching him, you knew fine well that the full-backs had had it. He was just too good for them. Occasionally I had the pleasure to play with him and it was the greatest pleasure anyone could ever give me.

"I have so many happy memories of watching him play. His contribution to football is immeasureable."

Despite his fame as a player, Finney - a fully trained plumber - continued to work in his family's business throughout his career.

Did you know?

In 1960-61, the season following Finney's retirement, Preston were relegated from the top flight and have never returned

In the days of the £20-a-week maximum wage for footballers, Finney was glad of the extra income, and Docherty recalls a familiar sight in the car parks at Deepdale.

"We'd finish training and go out into the car park and Tom would have a wheelbarrow," Docherty said.

"The only people with cars in those days were the directors. Ken Horton, who used to play inside forward for Preston, was an accountant and he'd do the secretarial work for Tom's business.

"He'd finish training and push his wheelbarrow to a plumbing job."

As a midfielder for North End's rivals Burnley and Northern Ireland, Jimmy McIlroy was a regular opponent of Finney's throughout his career.

And it is a certain Argentine superstar whom McIlroy also cites as a reminder of the young Finney.

McIlroy said: "[Finney's] greatest asset was his dribbling ability. He could beat a player on a sixpence.

"Dribbling today is a lost art. There is only one player in football who I know of who dribbles, and that's the little fella at Barcelona - Lionel Messi.

"There's no-one else who can take on players like Tom did."