Pele vs. Diego Maradona
Brazil’s #10 vs. Argentina’s #10. The man who won three World Cups versus the man who won the World Cup almost single-handedly (pun intended). The man who became a football ambassador and businessman versus the man who became a drug-taking, journalist-shooting controversy. It’s the classic player vs. player rivalry.
Which is weird. Because for all the debate about who was better and all the harsh words exchanged (and there have definitely been some harsh words) these men never met on the field, and their careers only overlapped at the very edges. In 1977, a 37-year-old Pele was finishing his playing career with the New York Cosmos while a 16-year-old Diego Maradona was just starting out with Argentinos Juniors. They didn’t even play the same position.
The only reason this rivalry exists is that Pele and Diego Maradona are recognized as the two greatest players of all time. But rather than leave it at that, both men seem possessed by a powerful need to be recognized as THE greatest player of all time, and each seems unable to escape the shadow of the other.
Cristiano Ronaldo vs. Leo Messi