2018 FIFA World Cup: Football greats ready for final flourish
Pele had once remarked: “The World Cup is a very important way to measure the good players, and the great ones.”
Having starred in Brazil’s three World Cup triumphs in four editions, it’s no surprise why many rank him far better than Diego Maradona — an unending debate that’s bound to go on for decades to come.
Nonetheless, winning a World Cup is indeed a measure of how great an individual player is.
Greatness is about the persona and charisma of a player who is blessed with the ability to make a difference on the pitch when the going gets tough.
It was Pele and Maradona back in those days and it’s the same with Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo now.
Neither has managed to bag the silverware for their respective countries so far and given the one in Russia will be their last; they’re bound to go all out to taste success and tick the last box in their careers.
After all, neither Pele nor Maradona achieved the legendary status for their performances in club football.
Their stints with Santos, Cosmos, Napoli and Barcelona might have raised their status among the football fraternity but it was their feats at the World Cup which got them the legendary status.
Peter Shilton, the England goalkeeper on that fateful day, may cry foul for having been robbed of a possible quarter-final victory by Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’ goal but then the great Argentine silenced the critics with a stunning solo effort in that 2-1 win.
THE TRAGIC SOULS
There are many footballers for whom the loss cuts even deeper. Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, who’s now known for his position with Bayern Munich, led West Germany to two successive World Cup finals — in 1982 and 1986 — but lost both.
Similarly, a lot was expected from Ferenc Puskas and Johan Cruyff but they both failed to help their sides cross the finish line in 1954 and 1974, respectively.
And in recent times, the French would still want to believe they could have ended victors on that night in Berlin had Zinedine Zidane not been sent off for a head butt on Marco Materazzi.
While Zidane never donned the national jersey following that game, he would prefer to recall his happier memories from 1998.
However, not everyone’s as lucky as Zizou.
From Michael Laudrup, Cruyff, Roberto Baggio, Michel Platini, Marco van Basten and Paolo Maldini to Raul and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the list is endless when the legends of the game have had to hang their boots without earning the ultimate accolade as a player — the World Cup.
This World Cup will show if Messi and Ronaldo will have the privilege of the ultimate high for a footballer.