The Next Best Player Ever.

One lost his virginity to a man and the other couldn’t kick with his right foot. At least that's how they describe one another. Like two little birdies sharing a perch, Pele and Maradona often spit feathers over the matter, but at large, they are considered the two best players ever to grace the beautiful game.

Arguments surface every now and then to suggest that neither deserve their shared title. One side say Pele never did anything outside of Brazil. Fair cop, aside from a highly lucrative cameo in the newly formed MLS with the New York Cosmos, Pele spent the whole of his career playing for Santos.  Nonetheless, this didn’t seem to hinder his ability to score against defences from all over the planet on the international stage did it? The other side argue that while Maradona’s magic was undeniable, for how much of that time was he not high? After all, the player himself admits to being a recreational and performance enhancing drugs cheat at different stages in his career, most prominently while at Napoli, while he was also telling the manager who to sign, not training and making illegitimate babies. Again, fair cop (not least to the man himself), but was George Best not drunk for the majority of his career? And not half as good.
The Two Best, so far.
Many other players/little birdies had the potential to join the pair at the top. A few think there are some up there with them, Cruyff for example. Not Jordi.  Some players were simply too early, Di Stefano and Puskas both played in an era of pre-globalised war-stricken football. And allegedly, even the most graceful of defenders; Franz Beckebauer, will never make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up with a block tackle, like a creative midfielder or goal scorer would. Not something I necessarily agree with.  
About time for someone new. The debate over today’s current crop won’t be had for another few years yet. However, I’m not sure anyone can argue with the inevitability of Senor Messi’s rise to the very top. All he needs is a World Cup.  But the next best player ever, has hung up his boots by now; having played in the space of time left by Mr. Dona and picked up by Lionel and co, he now sits, relaxes, and waits.
The modern footballer could never rise to the ranks of the “best player ever” argument purely on the basis of international competition as Pele did. Such is the contemporary game. International football is simply not the glamorous affair it once was. Although Spain are doing everything they can to change that.
Q. So who in the time period mentioned has done enough on both the domestic and international stage to potentially swoop on to that metaphorically tenuous branch? A. Two players.
Both arguably played their best football in the same team.  But one of whom simply appeared to have magic in his boots, the ability to do the unthinkable, and to create the unimaginable. If God had been a footballer he would have been Zinedine Zidane. Perhaps he is.

"That's a bloke Ronny, run!"

Ronaldo, or fat Ronaldo as he’s now known, hasn’t even retired yet. He’s still scoring goals in Brazil, 12 in 20 for Corinthians last season. His career was everything that Pele’s could have been, at least at club level. Not only the best Brazilian centre forward since his idol, but the best centre forward in the world since him. 34 in 37 for Barce, 49 in 68 for Inter, 83 in 127 for Real and 8 in 20 for AC. That’s a combined total of a goal every 1.4 games while playing at four of the greatest club teams in the world. Raise that by .1 for his 97 international appearances, and you begin to comprehend the ability of the tranny-chasing striker to find the net on any occasion. Not least the 2002 World Cup final.

Enough on him. A goal is a goal. And one hundred goals are one hundred goals. But some players have something beyond goals, something almost undescribable. Luke Skywalker had it in ‘Return of the Jedi’, but Zizu had it every time he crossed the white line; the ability to change the course of history. See his goal in the 01/02 European Cup final. With his weaker foot.

The Third Way.

Born to Algerian parents in Marseille, Zidane played in France as a young man for both Cannes and Bordeaux. But it was at Juventus , the then European Champions that he rose to prominence, five years later in 2001 moving to Real Madrid for a world-record fee. By this point Zidane had already won a World Cup and European Championship with France and two Scudettos with Juve.

But it was with Real and the Galacticos that Zidane won most of his plaudits as a player, if not trophies. One European Cup and one League Title are not nearly enough to describe the influence of the man on the club. Not only did the team revolve around him, but so did the club, the fans, and at time, the whole of football.
Quality is a word often over used in football, but never enough where Zidane is concerned. A pass played by Kaka for Hernan Crespo’s second goal in the 2005 European Cup Final is the closest thing in recent years to the level of vision and execution displayed throughout Zidane’s career. But type in “Zidane great pass” on Youtube, and you’ll see hundreds just as good, if not better.

Amazing what advertising money can do.

Until the very final moments of Zidane’s career there were no slights, nothing to be held against him and nothing to retract from his ability. This particular moment of madness will always be remembered, but shall never over shadow.

If I haven’t done enough to permanently place him alongside the two best in the eyes of world football, I’m positive time will. The two little birdies in my tree have got a giant French Cock to join them. I’m sure Maradona will have something to say about that.

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