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Pele or Maradona, who is the greatest?

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Jonathan Stevenson | 07:12 UK time, Friday, 22 October 2010

They are, quite simply, the two greatest footballers of all time. So it only seems right to wish them both a happy birthday.

On Saturday, Pele celebrates his 70th and exactly a week later Diego Maradona turns 50. Between them they have won four of the last 14 World Cups and taken part in another four, and in the process they have not only helped to redefine the boundaries of their sport, but they have become a part of all of our lives.

Born Edson Arantes do Nascimento in Tres Coracoes in Minas Gerais state, Pele first wowed the world as a 17-year-old by helping Brazil win their first World Cup in 1958. He went on to help them defend their trophy in 1962 and then, in 1970, led the greatest team of all time to victory in Mexico to win the tournament for an unequalled third time.

A striker with blistering pace, fearsome physical power, clinical finishing and the ability to head a ball as hard as most players could kick it, Pele was a force of nature on the football field. He scored more than 1,000 goals in his career, mostly for Brazilian club Santos, and retired after a two-year spell in the United States at New York Cosmos in the mid-1970s.

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You don't need to have been alive while Pele was in his prime to appreciate the impact 'The King' - who scored 77 times in 92 games for Brazil - had on the beautiful game. As a young boy, I remember having to give a speech on a famous person to my class at school and I chose Pele. In the days before the internet, the football knowledge I'd soaked up in my formative years were enough to tell the great man's story.

Little did I know at the time that the captain of Argentina, who I then hated for knocking England out of the 1986 World Cup, would finish his career as Pele's only real rival for the title of football's greatest player.

Growing up in desperate poverty in the shantytown of Villa Fiorito in Buenos Aires, Maradona's was the classic rags-to-riches story. Similarly outstanding in his teens this was a boy clearly touched by genius, making his international debut at 16 and scoring 34 times in 91 games for the country he was so passionate about.

Unlike Pele, however, much of Maradona's career was tainted with controversy. For every wonder goal there was a scandal to match, with the 1986 quarter-final against England perfectly encapsulating El Diego. Four minutes after his 'Hand of God' put Argentina ahead, he wove his way through the England defence to score, at least in my opinion, the greatest goal the game has seen.

As a five-year-old who didn't fully understand what had happened, I cried at the unjust nature of Maradona's victory and rejoiced when he lost the final four years later, delighted that this time his World Cup had ended in tears too.

These days, I own a T-shirt with a graphic illustration of THAT goal - a moment of such hypnotic, artistic beauty I could watch it a million times over. Time truly is a great healer.

He almost single-handedly won the 1986 World Cup as well as two Serie A titles with unfashionable Napoli and his breathtaking close ball control, allied to a warrior's determination and a wonderful arrogance in front of goal made him as near to unplayable as a footballer has ever been. Think Lionel Messi, only better.

Of course, no Maradona discussion can ever take place without mention of the drug abuse that nearly cost him his life or the multitude of controversies that seem to follow his every move. That much was highlighted during his spell as Argentina coach, which ended in typically furious fashion after the World Cup in South Africa when his side were humiliated by Germany in the quarter-finals.

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But that only seems to intensify the debate as to who really is the best football player ever. Everyone has an opinion and it is a debate that even the sport's world governing body, Fifa, has been unable to settle convincingly.

In 2000, Fifa decided to have a vote to find the 'Player of the Century', which took the form of an online poll. Maradona won it comfortably, which led to concerns that the age of internet users meant more people who saw the Argentine play would be able to cast a vote than those of an older generation who saw Pele.

So Fifa asked its "football family" to decide, which consisted of two components - ballots sent in from subscribers of the organisation's quarterly magazine and those cast by a special international Fifa jury. Pele won that one by a landslide.

When it came to the Rome gala, Fifa decided to split the award in two and announced Pele and Maradona as the two greatest players of all time. "I had the vote of the people, Pele won by forfeit," said Maradona, who walked out of the auditorium before watching the Brazilian collect his award.

Their so-called feud has gone on for years, but is it borne out of genuine animosity or it is nothing more than fabricated fun? It threatened to get serious in 2000 when Maradona accused Pele of letting his former Brazil team-mate Garrincha "die in misery", which Pele put down to Maradona being "an ill man".

However, when Maradona began a new career as a chat-show host in Argentina in 2005, Pele was the first guest he invited on, the pair chatting away amiably and even indulging the audience in some head tennis. Pele congratulated Maradona on beating his drug addiction, telling him: "You are an example because you are a conqueror".

On the show, Maradona body swerved the question of who was the better player. "My mother says it was me and Pele's mother says it was him," he said.

For the record my mum reckons Pele edges it, but it is a debate that will run for time immemorial. As we celebrate milestones in both of their lives, it seems like a good time to reflect on the incredible memories both Pele and Maradona gave us and, for the umpteenth time, ask ourselves one of football's favourite questions.

I'd love to hear your favourite stories of both men. But who do you think is really the greatest footballer that ever lived?


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  • Comment number 1.

    Thinking of it rationally, you would have to pick Maradonna, he single handedly won the World Cup for Argentina and took his skills abroad to win titles with Napoli. Having said that, you can't possibly think of Pele in any other way than the King and he has been the model ambassador for longer than I can remember, which sadly you can't say about Maradonna. FIFA probably got this one right.........did I say that?

  • Comment number 2.

    Being old enough to have seen both play, my vote goes to Pele. What must be remembered is that he was the first of his kind. His wizardry with the ball, his total body control... this was a new type of futbol opera that had not been seen previous. When I witnessed Ronaldinho at the peek of his career with those fantastic moves and bursts, I was immediately reminded of "the king". It is a tragedy that Ronaldinho has wasted his wonderful talent.
    I give Maradona his due praise. He was electrifying, a true force at forward. He had speed and the incredible ability to move forward despite the best efforts of defenders.
    With me it just boils down to the beauty of the execution. Pele was the master.

  • Comment number 3.

    i'm too young to have seen them play, but i did SEE marco van basten play and he was better than everyone else by far. on television ZZ is the best i've ever watched, but i've never seeen him play in person.

  • Comment number 4.

    Too easy to make it a two-player thing and too subjective to base it on skills alone. Here's a more complete list based on the impact --mainly club and/or national team titles-- of each player divided by decades, fully aware of the fact that there's a lot of overlapping.

    50: Puskás, Di Stéfano
    60: Garincha, Pelé
    70: Beckenbauer, Cruijff
    80: Platini, Maradona
    90: Romário, Zidane
    00: Ronaldo (Br), ¿?

    If I had to pick one, I'd say Edson Arantes do Nascimento because there's a before and after in football, especially due to what he accomplished in 1958.

  • Comment number 5.

    It is not possible to compare players from diferent generations.
    When Pele played,teams did not care much about defending and the goalscoring
    was much higher than at the period when Maradona was a star.
    Besides Pele never played in European teams,while Maradona has a great career playing in Italy.
    Overall,it just comes to personal taste and whether you were old enough
    to see both players in action.
    In my case I have watched Pele in the 1970 World cup in Mexico and have followed Maradona through out his whole career.
    Based on that Maradona is my choice.

  • Comment number 6.

    Has to be Maradona.

    As previously commented,won the world cup in an average team, each of Pele's success'came in good,if not great teams.

    Antonio saucedo, not a criticism in any way but why no mention of Stanley Matthews, Ladislao Kubala or the Great Valentin Mazzolla? He the star of the Torino side that tragically died in the Superga Air Crash in 1949.

  • Comment number 7.

    Pele is no 1. Maradona is his equal. Third is Asutralian striker Gary Cole.

  • Comment number 8.

    El Diego Armando Maradona.

    Maradona is it!

  • Comment number 9.

    ....and Maradona it is!

  • Comment number 10.

    Paolo Di Canio was the greatest player I've ever seen in a live football match

  • Comment number 11.

    Pele. Those who pick Maradona most likely haven't seen the Pele play. There's also much more video footage of Maradona, so of course judgement tends to favour him for younger people. Pele was also a much more complete player, with a lethal non-dominant foot (Maradona rarely used his right one). So those are my arguments, even without playing the Druggie or Arrogance card.

  • Comment number 12.

    "Maradona good. Pele better. George Best"

  • Comment number 13.

    At his peak Ronaldinho was the best but out of the two, I would say Maradona just edges it.

  • Comment number 14.

    I'm too young to have seen either play, though I have seen Youtube videos of each player. Pele is clinical in front of goal and Maradona is fast but with great balance. However, I think it's too hard to call one player the greatest. There are many more great players than just the two that have graced the game with brilliant displays. So for me, they are both great footballers.

  • Comment number 15.

    if you are honest enough to factor in sportsmanship and simple human morals then maradonna is way behind most players, Pele is the best ever, at 17 he does stuff that is way beyond and in the world cup as well, Maradonnas name does not deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence.

  • Comment number 16.

    George Best. This sums him up (from an article in the Guardian at the time of his death) :-

    In 1976, Northern Ireland were drawn against Holland in Rotterdam as one of their group qualifying matches for the World Cup. Back then the reporters stayed at the same hotel as the team and travelled with them on the coach to the game. As it happened I sat beside George on the way to the stadium that evening.

    Holland - midway between successive World Cup final appearances - and Johan Cruyff were at their peak at the time. George wasn't. I asked him what he thought of the acknowledged world number one and he said he thought the Dutchman was outstanding. 'Better than you?' I asked. George looked at me and laughed. 'You're kidding aren't you? I tell you what I'll do tonight... I'll nutmeg Cruyff first chance I get.' And we both laughed at the thought.

    A couple of hours later the Irish players were announced one by one on to the pitch. Pat Jennings, as goalkeeper, was first out of the tunnel to appreciative applause. Best, as No 11, was last. 'And now,' revved up the PA guy, 'Number 11, Georgie [long pause] Best.' And out trotted George. Above him, a beautiful blonde reached over with a single, long-stemmed red rose.

    Given his nature, his training and his peripheral vision there was no way he was going to miss her or the rose, so he stopped, trotted back, reached up to take the flower, kissed her hand and ran out on to the pitch waving his rose at the punters as the applause grew even louder.

    Five minutes into the game he received the ball wide on the left. Instead of heading towards goal he turned directly infield, weaved his way past at least three Dutchmen and found his way to Cruyff who was wide right. He took the ball to his opponent, dipped a shoulder twice and slipped it between Cruyff's feet. As he ran round to collect it and run on he raised his right fist into the air.

    Only a few of us in the press box knew what this bravado act really meant. Johan Cruyff the best in the world? Are you kidding? Only an idiot would have thought that on this evening

  • Comment number 17.

    I've seen most of them play in the flesh and on TV and there's no doubt Pele was the complete footballer, so powerful, such vision, world class in several positions. From the UK the only one who came close was probably Duncan Edwards. George Best's imagination, unpredictability, gall and sheer style beat Maradona hands down. Maradona was a one footed wonder genious but was also a bit of a one-trick pony (like Matthews they they knew what he was going to do and still couldn't stop him. How would Best have done in World Cups if he was an Argentinian instead of a Northern Irishman? DiStefano & Cryuff were up there among the greats but the one I wish I could have seen was Mazzolla. Ronaldinho shouldn't be mentioned in the same breath as these greats but maybe Frank Rijkhard should as he was world class in a couple of positions.

    The girl with the rose. Great memory.

  • Comment number 18.

    It depends. They are both the greatest, but first let us get one thing out of the way: Maradona is not a nice guy outside of the football field. Having said that let us see why they are the greatest, both of them:

    These two are outstanding among all players of the beatiful game. Pele had an extremely high lowest level throughout his career, what they call 'consistency' these days. He had a long career too. On average, therefore, Plele is the greatest player ever. For this reason, if I was to choose to have either him or Maradona in my team, I'd go for Pele.
    Maradona at the peak of his game, would leave Pele for dead. On the ball, he was the best thing that this world has ever seen - technique, speed, power, imagination, movement - you name it. Let me put it this way: If you took Maradona's 10 best matches against Pele's 10 best, Maradona would win 8-2 or 9-1.
    Maradona is the player with the greatest ability on the ball, that there has ever been.

    There you have it. They are both the greatest..

  • Comment number 19.

    Maradona by a whisker....

  • Comment number 20.

    i think its difficult to say-both were of different eras, but both were the best of their generation (roughly 10-15 years).anybody think ronaldo could have been closer to these two had his career not been blighted by injury?i do..the guy had it all.

  • Comment number 21.

    Pele would have to get the vote, purely because the circus that surrounded Maradona distracted from his ability. If you ask most people about Maradona, their reaction will be:
    1) Hand of God
    2) Drug abuser
    3) Great footballer
    so Pele should be number one. However in my opinion, Messi could mature into a better player than both of them, when you consider his already wonderful talent at such a young age.

  • Comment number 22.

    Being old enough and fortunate to see them both play, it's a 'no brainer' - Pele

  • Comment number 23.

    I just don't know.

    They were both head and shoulders above anyone else before, during and after. Messi is good, very very good but maradona was unplayable.

    Pele had the perfect football brain. He seemed to make other players look ponderous. Watch Jaziniho's (Hope thats spelt right) goal against England in 1970, Just look at Pele's pass. He is surrounded by one of the best defences ever and he seems to have so much time and so calm.

    The only player I have seen come close was George Best but he never played in a world cup. I know it was not his fault but to be the best you have to do it against the best.

    Pele 3 - 3 Maradona (1 yellow card)

  • Comment number 24.

    Those who criticise Maradonas character and worship Peles should remember the vicious and cynical elbow to the face of the Uruguyan defender during the 1970 world cup.

    Attempts have been made to deify Pele for years, remember the 2000 club goals he was claimed to have scored? Well that included goals he scored when he was playing youth football!!

    No doubt Pele was talented, but it is a lot easier to look good in a great team. He was surrounded by superstars, take him out of that 1970 team and they were still head and shoulders above anyone else. His contribution in goals and assists was nothing special. He played no part in the latter stages in 1962. He never left his comfort zone and played in Europe.

    Maradona on the other hand never played in a great Argentina team. His team mates were average. He single handedly took them to two world cup finals. He did it in the hardest league in the world Serie A at a time when all the worlds best players were there. The most defensive league in the world and took Napoli - to all intense and purpose Italys version of top half championship side to two titles.

    And that second goal against England in 1986 - Pele could never have scored that goal.

  • Comment number 25.

    Pele, quite simply he was the complete footballer and always beautiful to watch.

  • Comment number 26.

    Well, Maradona is truly talented, driven by uncontrollable passion; but not an artist in the true sense of the word. Pele, was an artist that uses the pitch as his canvas. Pele and only few others had that uncanny ability to not just play football; but enter in a translike form on the field.
    I was about ten years old. In Kingston Jamaica, and withnessed this almost godlike man in a zone when the ball approched him. I studied very hard, got my degrees in Pure Mathematics and Psychology, worked hard a lot, retired at 45, move to Brazil, still haunted by Pele magnificence, came here to see what kind of environment produces men like Pele. I know the world has seen lots of great players, only one other player I have seen that paint a tavestry with the ball, and also rediscover the zone, Zenadine Zedan. I believe Garincha was the means by which Pele reached the Zone. It was not just winning at all cost, but; winning with divine art. Messi, Ronaldinho, and Roger Miller are great drbblers too, like Maradona. I think all these players are great in thier own right, ranking them misses the point. They are thier own wonders of our football world. I have not seen all the great player in action, but it is cleAr that Pele inspired Maradona.
    I rest my case.

  • Comment number 27.

    How has nobody mentioned Zidane as their front runner!?

    For me, playing in the vastly superior and competitive modern game, he was a ballerina on the football field. Gifted with both feet, remarkable skill and awareness and the only player that can lay claim to competing with Ronaldo for the title of greatest footballer of all time. I only say this because Maradona and Pele, great though they were, weren't competing with the cream of the crop, the sheer athleticism that personifies the modern footballer. For their era, they were the best, Maradona slightly edging Pele as he came to Europe and was still just as good.

    But Zidane and Ronaldo are the modern equivalent to this debate, and Zidane gets my vote.

  • Comment number 28.

    Its difficult as many poeple have said on here to compare but my preference would be Maradona. Some clowns on here have put a list up of all time greats and missed out George Best, i'd say if he had been English we would also comparing him too these too. In fact in many ways he was as good....

  • Comment number 29.

    Ah! As long as one accepts that direct comparisons are difficult and conclusions will always be subjective, these debates are kinda fun aren't they?

    Personally, I'd have to plump for Maradonna as the greatest - 1986 notwithstanding - simply because his ability and sheer presence was enough to take average teams (Argentina, Napoli) to the top honours. He was also playing football in a far more cynical era (and continent), when defenders would simply acknowledge his superiority and try and kick him off the field instead. Whilst Pele was undoubtedly a target, he did not take the punishment that Maradonna did. And funnily enough, despite conclusions we might draw about him from 1986, he always tried to beat the hatchet men with his football. There was not much diving, feigning injury etc. Sadly, his injuries after these games were all too real.

    My favourite Maradonna moment comes from early in his career when he wasa warming up on the pitch in an opponents stadium doing a bit of keepy-uppy. He was being pelted wioth fruit by the opposition fans, who knew of his reputation. At one point, he abandonned the ball and controlled an orange (I think) that had been hurled in his direction. A few juggles later, without the orange hitting the deck, and he volleyed straight back to where it came from. He always had that confrontational element to his game, which in many ways made him even more exciting to watch.

    Do I respect him as a man? Not really (though he has changed, and that should be deserving of respect), as a footballer? Undoubtedly. He was also the most entertaining aspect of the recent world cup by a country mile!

  • Comment number 30.

    The three greatest and the three in a class of their own and in this order


    Pele stayed at the top for so much longer than the other two and I personally think he was the most gifted player I have ever seen. As for Zidanne and Best, great players but certainly not in the class of the trinity.

  • Comment number 31.

    Maradona for me.He single-handedly won the World Cup and won 2 Scudettos and the UEFA cup with Napoli,and both were very average teams without him. Napoli had never won the title before or since then,and Serie A was THE top league in the world at the time.
    Pele scored over 1000 goals in the Brazilian league (hardly Serie A in terms of defence).Pele was also surrounded by many other great players in that 1970 side,whereas Diego did'nt have that luxury for Argentina. IMO,Pele was the best striker ever,but Maradona was the best all-round player ever,a classic number 10.

  • Comment number 32.

    It is always difficult in any sport to compare the "greatness" from one era to another. I think however, that it is beyond any doubt that these two are the greatest of all time. When it comes to football, i think it is very close. I would give it to Pele, but really there is nothing in it. However, if you want to measure the greatness over a period of time, there is only one winner....Pele. He has been a great ambassador and a wonderful role model. Maradonna has been the opposite and it is no contest.

  • Comment number 33.

    Despite the fact that I didn't live to see Pele play live soccer, I've watched some of his documentaries. He did well. He played good football at his time. But, Diego Armando El Maradona was just extraordinary. He played modern football which is quite competitive and demanding that in the days of Pele. Despite the Argentinian 'drug scandal', he's still the best footballer of all time.

  • Comment number 34.

    Maradona is the best, only player to win the world cup on his own. Also Pele and his 1,000 goals is a joke he never scored a thousand goals it is a joke, one season for Santos he scored 33 goals offically but in his own records he has 97 he says he scored them in friendly matches he and that record is a joke

  • Comment number 35.

    Best footballer ever? Jan Molby, no question. From his 5-yard circle, that man could spot a pie 60 yards away.

    On a serious note, Pele wins it. Everytime.

  • Comment number 36.

    According to the manager of Santos, the greatest ever goal was untelivised and only ever witnessed by the few who were lucky enough to be in the stadium. Apparently Pele picked up the ball in or around the Santos penalty area and then proceeded to dribble past almost the entire opposing team before rolling the ball into the net. If anybody has more details about this game and goal can they respond to the website.

  • Comment number 37.

    Of the two I'd go for Pele, mainly because of the off-field problems Maradona had during his career and afterwards - I'd hate the 'best player ever' to be a man who was banned for taking drugs, revelled in cheating, was constantly questioning refereeing decision, was instrumental in the worst world cup final ever (1990), was involved with the mafia, was arrested for firing a gun at journalists outside his house etc......

    However I will recount a story which Gary Linekar once told. he was playing for a world XI in some game and during the warm up he was stood with Michel Platini (himself no bad player) when Maradona got the ball and booted it straight up in the air, never moved from the spot, the ball came down back onto his foot and he volled it straight back up into the air again, doing this two of three times. When Platini stands open mouthed and can't believe what he's just seen, you know you'rewatching someone fairly special. But for me, the extras just take that shine off.

    What is a shame is that Di Stefano, Garrincha and Puskas don't have the same amount of media directed at them, playing as they did really before TV took off in a big way as I suspect one of these may have a decent claim to the title of the greatest also......

  • Comment number 38.

    Wow, Maradona must have been special if so many people on here are saying he won the World Cup on his own. One man against eleven. That's special.

  • Comment number 39.

    Pele should be called the greatest at the world cup and Maradona should be awarded the greatest talent the game has ever produced.Talent wise,nobody can touch Maradona.young people like me will tend to mention zidane and ronaldinho,but if they should take their time and watch Diego,they will quickly find out that,all the skills and artistry displayed by the two (ZZ and ronaldinho) was first brought to being by maradona.every beautiful goal they have scored,Maradona scored a far better one.

  • Comment number 40.

    Zidane is the best player I have ever seen by some margin. I wouldn't comment on Maradona/Pele as I have never seen them play and Youtube videos are never a good way of judging a players ability.

  • Comment number 41.

    #31, what are you on about Maradona wasn't surrounded by great players?

    OK, the Brazil team of 1970 had a greater number of quality players, but the Argentina team of 1986 wasn't without its stars. It contained players like Batista, Passarella, Burruchaga, Valdano and Ruggeri. All great players.

    I think Maradona is getting a little over-hyped on this blog.

  • Comment number 42.

    Too young to have seen them play but I rate Brazilian Ronaldo, Zidane and Henry as probably the three best I have ever seen, have to be considered close runners for the greatest.

  • Comment number 43.

    Diego Maradona

  • Comment number 44.

    Nobody has, or likely ever will, score goals as comfortably (and often) as Pele. He is the greatest striker their has been in football.

    But nobody has been remotely as good with the ball at their feet as Maradonna - to coin a phrase, he was at one with the football. For me, he stands out as the greatest footballer of all time.

    I would also like to see George Best mentioned amongst those two more often - another genius with the ball.

  • Comment number 45.

    Pele for me.

  • Comment number 46.

    For those mentioning that Pele never played in Europe please spare us. In his day it wasn't the case that all the good South Americans migrated to Europe to play their club football, if I remember correctly his Santos team were very competitive against European teams. More importantly however, the military Junta in Brazil at the time would not allow Pele to play abroad, seeing as they saw him as a hero of the people that could be used for their own PR purposes.

    I never saw Pele play, and indeed there are stories of some of the goals he scored that sound amazing, pity he played before the advent of the youtube generation. I was too young to see Maradonna in his pomp, the only match I ever saw him play was the 4-0 victory over Greece at USA '94 so can't really say I saw the Maradonna that most people would vote for on this issue. My Dad however saw both at the height of their careers and he says there's no comparison, Pele hands down, in fact he says there's no point comparing anyone to Pele.

  • Comment number 47.


    There the 3 greatest, Pele scored a 1000 goals against a bunch of pub players in Brazil, He played in great teams for Brazil at the world cup who complimented him. The 3 above were in a league of there own, Zidane and Maradona practically won the world cup's for there countries and its beyond belief that a player of Cruyff's ability never won a world cup. Anyway Pele bottled Europe how can he be classed in the 3 names above. Not for me...

  • Comment number 48.

    Maradona is being massively over-rated here. He was a very good player and helped Argentina to win the World Cup (with a very good team around him) and Napoli (less so) to the Serie A title (once).

    However he wasn't anywhere near as good as Pele, nor would I put him in the same league as Cruyff or Zidane.

    On top of that, he cheated on the pitch with relish, repeatedly failed drug tests both during and after his prime, and has largely sullied what might once have been a decent legacy for his era by becoming a parody of himself.

  • Comment number 49.

    Maradona without doubt is the greatest footballer of all time.
    Greatness often comes with baggage, and Maradona comes with several suitcases.

    Put into context - He signed for Napoli, won them the league twice and teh UEFA cup when it meant something. Napoli were not a big club at all at this time. It is the equivalent of Messi signing for Sunderland (no disrespect) and Sunderland winning the league. TWICE.

    He also single handedly won the world cup in 86 for Argentina.

    Pele - Very good, always had great players playing along side him.
    Maradona - Simply the greatest of all time.

    Bad Mick

  • Comment number 50.

    Maradona was a drug user (at least cocaine) which enhanced his performances. He should not even be considered. I agree with no:48

  • Comment number 51.

    I was lucky enough to watch Maradona play twice in England - once just before the 1986 World Cup when he played in a Spurs shirt, most skilful player White hart Lane had seen until Justin Edinburgh turned up!!

    Too young to have seen Pele "live" but he looks just the complete player and his reputation and statistics speak for themselves.

    All that said I have a Brazilian mother-in-law so for me there will only ever be one winner!

  • Comment number 52.

    You cannot ever compare players from different era's correctly and accuratly. Pele and Maradona where the best players of their generations, I do feel Alfredo Di Stefano should be given a mention alongside these 2 however as he is never mentioned due to him playing in an era far beyond any of our lives.

    I have never seen any of them play and am part of the generation that saw Ronaldo & Zidane and having seen both them play I would say they are the 2 best players I have ever seen, Ronaldo in particular was the greatest striker I have ever witnessed.

    Back onto the Pele/Maradona debate it will never be answered and that is part of the beauty of the whole saga, we will never really know how is better.

  • Comment number 53.

    This debate will always be subject to the ravages of time.

    My grandad who saw both play always told me the greatest player was William Ralph 'dixie' Dean.

    Its a subjective debate, and one where an attacker always seems to win.

  • Comment number 54.

    Pele Was the best, but I'd rate Zico better than Maradona
    1, Pele
    2, Zico
    3, Maradona
    4, Zidane

  • Comment number 55.

    at 41 snowJacuzzi007

    So you think Batista, Passarella, Burruchaga, Valdano and Ruggeri were great players ? Laughable,compared with Jairzinho,Rivelino,Tostao,Carlos Alberto,Gerson.

    Your knowledge is clearly not up to it,as Passarella did'nt even play in the 1986 WC,so like I said,Maradona won it.

  • Comment number 56.

    Spoke to my dad about this and he has seen them both in live games on many occasions. He has said both were 'GREAT' players. However he has always said that PELE was better. I've only ever seen footage of both so it would be hard for me to call. All my dads friends are of an era that they have seen both and they all agree it was PELE. He also has been such a great ambassador for football also whilst diego has always had scandals along the way...

  • Comment number 57.

    "I had the vote of the people, Pele won by forfeit," said Maradona,

    The comment above sums it up. Maradona is the greatest ever, but because of the controversy he causes, the political choice is Pele.

    Maradona was unbelievable playing in the best league in the world and destroying defences.

    Although that said, he was a real team player. He always appreciated his team mates work. To say Napoli were an average team is ridiculous, what about the Ma,Gi,Ca forward line? Maradona, Giordano and Careca hardly average! Argentina in 86 also was a strong team, but Maradona led them and undoubtedly had the greatest individual tournament performance the football world has ever seen.

    Pele was a great player, but I would put him in 3rd behind the brilliant Di Steffano and the greatest ever Diego Armando Maradona.

  • Comment number 58.

    Ronaldo de Lima of Brazil is greater than any of them. At his peak just off his teens, simply the most devastating footballer I've ever seen and I did see a lot of Maradonna.

  • Comment number 59.

    Shame on you Stevo. We both know that Stuart Pearce is the greatest footballer of all time.

  • Comment number 60.

    Great blog, Jonno.

    This is a debate that will always divide opinion. There really isn't much between them, but for me Maradona just edges it for two main reasons.

    Firstly, as mentioned before, the Argentine went abroad and did what he did in probably the toughest football league in the world at the time - achieving all his success with an unfashionable and quite ordinary club.

    And secondly, all his success and achievements happened during an era where cynical, containing defensive football was the norm, particularly in Italy and the top level of the international game.

    Of course his personal indiscretions and scandals cannot be ignored, as I'm certain had he stayed out of trouble we would not be having this debate as his career at the top level would have gone on much longer. Having said that, let's not let it to detract from just how gifted a player he was. It really should not even be a factor when deciding on the greatest of all time, IMO.

  • Comment number 61.

    I've seen both play, although when I saw Maradona he was playing for Sevilla and in a terrible physical state.

    But, I must say that overall, Pele had more to his game. He could do the lot: two-footed, incredible dribbler, great passer of the ball, total ball control, superb header of the ball and a phenomenal footballing brain.

    Maradona was good, but not in the same class. You had to see Pele in person to get the full magic of the player. It was if he were dancing - he could (should?) have played to music.

  • Comment number 62.

    To say they are the two greatest footballers of all time is in a word rubbish. How can you say that these two are the greatest of all time? Based on what facts? The first fact that should spring to mind is the standard they played at was at such a lower level to the players now- the pace, strength and stamina of players has increased ten fold, even from the days of Maradona. Further more why is a cheating drug taker being considered for this title? We would not celebrate a man on the streets who took drugs or had a problem with rules, so why this fat little monkey?

    Surely the best player of all time, the player who could make the ball stick to his foot, influence games, score fantastic goals and win a game in a single moment was Zidane. Maradona is not as good as every one thinks and neither is Pele, put them in todays game and they be mediocre at best.

  • Comment number 63.

    Maradona was a cheat.

  • Comment number 64.

    I saw them both.
    Pele: brilliant player (but of his time) and seemingly a good man.
    Maradona: think Messi but less of a team player, a totally wayward life, a cheat and with no humility whatsoever. Oh, and Messi scored the same goal but against defenders who were actually trying to tackle him.
    Pele was better.

  • Comment number 65.

    im only 20 and so i never saw either of them and any memory i have is made up of watching videos from the past, but i have to say maradona edges it just because im not sure pele could have carried an entire team to win a world cup, or a league title on his own, the majority of the argentinian side in 82 was ordinary, brazil still had some phenomenal players.
    i would how ever like to throw a third player into the mix, zidane, easily the greatest player of my life time, he managed to have so much grace and finesse and yet still had the power to his game to make him complete. i know he isnt 40 yet but is he not worth mentioning in the same breath as the other two?

  • Comment number 66.

    I may be bias, having grown up in the eighties and watching Maradona a lot, but I think he edges it, as an individual.

    Pele was great, no question, but he was also part of a great team, backed up by other great players. The team that Maradona carried to victory in '86 would have been nothing short of average without him.

    Granted, Maradona's achivements over the years do not match up to Pele's in honours - but having said that, would Pele have scored over "1,000 (questionable) goals" if he left Brazil and had played in Europe?

    Final Score: Maradona 10-9 Pele

    Oh, and I also rate the following as the other greats:

    Franz Beckenbauer
    Marco Van Basten
    George Best
    Zinedine Zidane
    Ronaldo (the original)

  • Comment number 67.

    Zinedine Zidane:

    World Champion with France > 1998
    European Champion with France > 2000

    With Juventus:
    Winner of the UEFA Supercup > 1996
    Winner of the Intercontinental cup > 1996
    Italian League > 1997
    Winner of the Italian Supercup > 1997
    Italian League > 1998

    With Real Madrid:
    Winner of the Spanish Supercup > 2001
    UEFA Champions League > 2002
    Winner of the UEFA Supercup > 2002
    Winner of the Intercontinental cup > 2002
    Spanish League > 2003

  • Comment number 68.

    I've seen extensive footage of Pele and Maradonna, and having been fortunate enough to see Zidane in his prime, I have to say that Zizou is easily the best player I've ever seen by a mile. Pele and Maradonna were great individual players, but Zidane controlled the entire game; he could take it by the scruff of the neck and do with it as he pleased. I've never seen anyone else come close to that.

  • Comment number 69.

    If you take drugs to enhance your performance you are a cheat. Every footballer who played the game honestly is a greater player than Maradonna. This discussion shouldn't even be taking place.

  • Comment number 70.

    To compare Pele to Maradona is an insult to Pele!
    The maestro Pele did not have to cheat his way to win world cups and medals.There are and has been far better players than Maradona in modern times and I do not recall any of them needing to cheat to win.

  • Comment number 71.

    Football is so much more than skills on the pitch. It's about nobility and class off it as well.

    Maradona cheated on the pitch, failed drugs tests and is an ego-tistical, spiteful man who believes his own hype.

    Pele is the model professional. He's the king and always will be.

  • Comment number 72.

    The best 3 I have seen live and yes im young are

    1. Zidane
    2. Bergkamp
    3. Iniesta

    Thanks Paul Telfer

  • Comment number 73.

    I would agree with SupremeOwl1867:


    Cruyff the only one who could touch Maradona. Pele gets a lot of publicity because he was around when there was less skillful competition. I wouldn't place him above Messi, even.

  • Comment number 74.

    Maradona for me. Both utterly great players, but in his prime Diego simply had a desire, a determination, an ability to totally affect the outcome of a game that from everything I've heard, Pele, great player that he was, simply didn't have.

    Seeing other great names here makes me wonder about the greatest European player of all time. I'd go for Zidane on the same basis, somebody who was an absolute force on the pitch who could control a game at his peak. Game changing ability over skill for me in a discussion about the absolute best.

  • Comment number 75.

    alot of people on this blog saying pele is a "good man" as opposed to Maradona the "cheat", etc, etc..

    How many of pele's former team mates say good things about him ? Very few
    How many of Maradona's team mates say good things about him ? Every one

    Pele ALWAYS puts down former team mates and other players who may be considered his equal, to protect his status as the nuber "one"

    Contrary to popular opinion in Britain, Maradona was the real team player, one of the boys in the dressing room, who got on with his team-mates..Pele the exact opposite..

    Maradona is clealy no angel..but then he doesnt claim to be

    However, Pele, in his way is far worse !

  • Comment number 76.

    At 09:23am on 22 Oct 2010, pekster11 wrote:

    Couldn't be more wrong, Maradonna is lauded by his team mates because they were all ordinary, whereas Pele was in a squad of many talents.

    Do not confuse Maradonnas charisma with genuine class. Pele > Maradonna.

  • Comment number 77.

    You said it "single handedly won the world cup" Maradona cheated - nobody likes a cheat in sport. His whole career is based on a fake result. I am too young to remember Pele but I am intelligent enough to realise that he represented a lot more than Maradona ever will. Give me Pele any day over Maradona.

  • Comment number 78.

    @62 Take off the blinkers! Do you really think if Maradona and Pele were playing today they would be average? I can only assume you are joking or on a wind up! Yes players today are fitter, but both Maradona and Pele would have the same fitness if they played in todays era! Only Messi who is currently playing could come close to the genius of the aforementioned players.

    My Top 10
    1. Maradona
    2. Di Steffano
    3. Pele
    4. Puskas
    5. Garrincha
    6. Eusebio
    7. Platini
    8. Cruyft
    9. Zidane
    10. Maldini/Batistuta

  • Comment number 79.

    Maradonna he did it in Spain and Italy Great Great Player

  • Comment number 80.

    "Maradona by a whisker...."
    Don't you mean by a short hand.

    Pele was a great footballer and a good guy.

    Maradona was a great footballer and .......

    Who else would rejoice in "the hand of God".

    Absolutely no contest.

  • Comment number 81.

    When you ask the question "Who is the Greatest?" in 10 years time, there will only be one answer:- Gareth Bale

  • Comment number 82.

    Pele learned his football playing with a sock filled with newspaper, such was the poverty that he grew up in, and yet he emerged a true gentleman, a thoroughly decent human being, a sportsman, an example to be followed and an inspiration for all.

    Maradonna will forever be remembered as a cheat, who was proud of cheating, , he was not a gentleman by any stretch of the imagination, hew was not even sporting, his behavior on and off the field is to be excoriated, and inspires nothing that is anything to do with common decency.

    Maradonna represents the modern game, with overpaid brats behaving like boring louts, Pele represents an earlier age - he is the personification of the beautiful game.

    Rewarding Maradonna is spitting in the face of the yriads of coaches who give of their time to instil values in kids through sport.

  • Comment number 83.

    Hi this question has been on for a while but the answer is quite simple, PELE. He was a complete player, skillful, an amazing header, great vision of the game, team player and the most important difference in between them, Pele could kick, drible and pass with both feet whereas Maradona could hardly walk upstairs with his right leg. I've seen some comments justifying Maradona as the best because of his beautiful goals and titles. First of all Pele won far, I mean, far more titles with santos (2 world club titles in row) with Santos and 3 world cups with Brazil and I'm not mentioning all the vast local brazilian titles as well. You can see Pele's masterpiece goals on his life's film called "Pele Eterno". Maradona must be the most INFAMOUS player of all times but never the best.

  • Comment number 84.

    Maradona without doubt.

    Football pre 1970 is so far removed from the modern game that you can't comapre it, although it shouldn't be dismissed and obviously Pele was the best of that generation. But, Diego achieved great things with average teams and notably in Italy against the meanest defences in Europe.

    If Maradona had led the same lifestyle as Pele, without controversy, this wouldn't even be a debate.

    I had the same discussion with a friend recently and he refused to even acknowledge Maradona because he was 'a cheat and a druggy', as do plenty of the public and this counts against him.

    Would Brazil have won those World cups without Pele, probably, would Argentina have won them without chance.

  • Comment number 85.

    I'm not old enough to have watched both of them play, so I never got to expirence it, Its like Queen, i'm not old enough to expirence them, and thats a great shame.

    Personally i believe Pele is the greatest player of all time.

  • Comment number 86.

    Each of them was the outstanding player of their generation and subsequent generations.
    Interesting that the "football family" voted the diplomatic and ambassadorial Pele as the best while supporters/spectators voted for Maradona.
    Pele was probably a better all-round player but Maradona is peerless as the most naturally gifted footballer ever to walk this earth.
    The debate will rage on and rightly so.
    There doesn't need to be an outright winner, let's be thankful we witnessed them both.

  • Comment number 87.

    This is a ridiculous question! How can the two even be compared? How can somebody have the bare faced affront to utter the name of drug user and cheat in the same breath as Pele?

    Pele is the answer, by a country mile! Why?

    It's not rocket science. Pele used pure talent without any 'additives'.
    Can we say the same thing for Maradona? We know about his drug abuse because of the times he was caught.
    What about the times he wasn't caught? Consider that!

  • Comment number 88.


  • Comment number 89.

    76. At 09:25am on 22 Oct 2010, Brummerdickens wrote:
    At 09:23am on 22 Oct 2010, pekster11 wrote:

    Couldn't be more wrong, Maradonna is lauded by his team mates because they were all ordinary, whereas Pele was in a squad of many talents.

    Do not confuse Maradonnas charisma with genuine class. Pele > Maradonna.
    Couldn't be more wrong yourself. Maradona had some exceptional team mates during his time at Napoli, Barcelona, Argentina etc. Here are a few.. Passarella, Careca, Giordano, Alemao, Zola, Ferrara, Valdano, Ruggeri, Batistuta, Redondo, Cannigga, I could go on and on.

    Maradona was lauded by the majority of his team mates because of his genius, and because he was a team player.

    It is an interesting and true point that Pekster11 makes. There is the story that Brazil were having a training session once and a few players were looking to wind up Pele, but they couldn't think what to say, so Garrincha walks over to Pele and says, hey I bet you wish you were left footed!

  • Comment number 90.

    It's not rocket science. Pele used pure talent without any 'additives'.
    doubt whether cocaine improves you're footballing ability to be honest !

  • Comment number 91.


  • Comment number 92.

    The answer to this question is simple. Neither of 'em. Pele was undoubtedly the greatest of his time, but there is an argument that he might not have been quite as effective in a more modern, tactically astute era, as Maradona was obliged to do. Maradona was phenomenal, but his physique - not something he could do much about - imposed limitations. He could never be as good as Pele in the air, though it could be argued that he was better at controlling the ball on the ground and was certainly more two footed than the Brazilian. All of this is moot, however, as the greatest player ever to grace the Beautiful Game is one Zinedine Zidane. Zizou combines most, if not all of the attributes of both of their illustrious forbears and adds a footballing brain that is better than either of them. I say this, despite my love of AC Milan and Barcelona and the great man playing for their respective arch enemies, Juventus and Real Madrid. If he's ever bettered, I hope to be alive to see it, but I think this is most unlikely. Until he is, Zidane is simply the greatest.

  • Comment number 93.

    The obvious answer : Pele.


    On skill, there is very little between them.

    However, on the tiebreaker, Pele was a gentleman, and played the game by the rules.

  • Comment number 94.

    Pele's career 1956 to 1977 spans decades when there were truly great players - his peers; by contrast Maradonna's career 1975 to 1997 there weren't that many greats - his peers. Both played in 4 World Cups - Pele is still the only player with 3 World Cup Winners Medals

  • Comment number 95.

    Let's get one thing straight - Maradona wasn't a drug cheat - he was and is a drug addict. He never took drugs to enhance his performance on the pitch. His capture at USA'94 was the work of incompetent Argentinian backroom staff.
    Let's keep this debate about footballing ability rather than their respective personalities.

  • Comment number 96.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 97.

    Maradona. Put the personalities to one side nothing Pele did compares to Maradona winning a world cup on his own in 1986.

  • Comment number 98.

    Tony Yeboah

    He came, he whacked it, he scored and then left.

    Thats true genius

  • Comment number 99.

    Have only seen video of Pele (including a full re-run of the 1970 Brazil v England world cup match), whereas Maradona is much more my era.

    Maradona was probably the better ball carrier and individual, but Pele was very good at that and had a greater range of skill and linked better with his team mates.

    For me football is primarily a team game, and for that reason I would give the edge to Pele.

    As others have said, there is no doubt that both would be outstanding in the modern game - both were blessed with exceptional pace, strength and balance and would only have been better for modern fitness training.

  • Comment number 100.

    The sign of a great player rather than a good footballer is the effortless nature in providing greatness. The two are surely the finest players within televised football history, however I'll go for Pele simply because he was the first player to wear Puma King boots on an international stage, Cruyff followed him in 1974, only to be eclipsed by Maradona in 1986. They still make the same boot today and serves me well in my 41st year. I still think of Pele every time I put them on.

    Shallow it may be, but as Mr Drummond once said, it takes different strokes..


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