Lionel Messi finally lifting the World Cup for Argentina means he has surpassed Diego Maradona as the greatest player of all time, according to Gary Lineker.
The GOAT debate has raged particularly fiercely during the tournament, as Cristiano Ronaldo’s inability to lift the trophy has ruled him out in many people’s eyes and the comparisons between Argentine greats Messi and Maradona have been escalated.
Maradona famously drove his country to victory at the 1986 World Cup, while the Jules Rimet trophy was conspicuous by its absence on Messi’s glittering career CV – as the only missing major accolade.
However, the 35-year-old scored twice at Lusail Stadium on Sunday – and then again in the penalty shootout – as La Albiceleste He came out on top in perhaps the greatest final of all time, which ended 3-3 after 120 minutes and 4-2 on penalties to the South Americans.
And speaking in the BBC studio after the game, Lineker – who was on the pitch when England lost to Maradona’s brilliance in the quarter-finals in 1986 – confirmed that he now believes the younger man has surpassed his predecessor in the Argentina No 10 shirt.
“I never thought I’d see a better player than Diego Maradona and it’s kind of slightly unfair to compare them because they played at different times,” said Lineker. But I think Messi’s done it through what he’s achieved now and his longevity.
“Diego for seven, eight, nine, maybe ten years even was so similar but he [Messi] has done it for nearly two decades. Seven Ballon d’Ors as well. He’s done them both in his mid-30s, the two big ones – the Copa America and the World Cup.”
In addition to finally lifting the World Cup trophy, Messi also claimed the Golden Ball in Qatar, awarded to the tournament’s best player.