Perhaps the only time they pretended to be cordial was when Diego Maradona hosted Pele on his television show. Depending on how you look at it, their verbal volleys during this World Cup are either an interesting sideshow or a distraction. But like the vuvuzelas, you either love the war of words or hate it; you certainly can't ignore it.
On Wednesday, it was Maradona's turn to nose ahead. Pele had equalised, retaliating to Maradona's broadside fired one day before Argentina opened against Nigeria. “I am not surprised,” Maradona said, when asked about Pele continuing to bad-mouth him. “He should be sent to the museum.”
Even before the ripple of chuckles and bewilderment died, the Argentina coach launched into Michel Platini.
“I have always had a very distant relationship with him. You know how the French are and Platini is French. He believes he is better than the rest.” The attack on the current UEFA president was in reaction to a recent interview where Platini said Maradona was a better player than coach.
The Ps were referred to again when El Diego got talking about the Jabulani ball. “I would ask Pele and Platini to go out there and play with the ball and see what is good and bad and stop talking about me.”
With Maradona, what is supposed to be a routine pre-match media conference is rarely that. During the 30-minute interaction at the tiny room at Loftus Versfeld stadium, which had more people outside than in, he wished a journalist on his birthday, took questions on everything including whether he is ready for a round of golf with an Argentine reporter and Carlos Tevez.
And at every available opportunity, he showered Lionel Messi with fulsome praise. Maradona beamed when someone sought a reaction to Messi's comment of feeling like he is playing for Barcelona.
“Let me also tell you something else. He is so calm, so assured… He needed a game like this (against Nigeria). He went out to look for all the balls I asked him to. Messi has enormous leadership qualities which we haven't seen, except from time to time at Barcelona. When he played, Nigeria died from a football point of view.”
Commenting on individual performances, of Wesley Sneijder, Lukas Podolski and Maicon among others, Maradona said: “None of them have 40 per cent of Messi's abilities.”
And when he was asked to point out a Messi in the South Korea team they play in Johannesburg on Thursday, he simply said: “With due respect, you don't have a Messi.”