Lineker explains what separates Messi and Ronaldo in GOAT debate; makes Maradona admission

Date published: Sunday 18th December 2022 1:36 - Jason Soutar

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo shake hands before a match

Gary Lineker has praised Cristiano Ronaldo, but admits Lionel Messi is a level above the Manchester United and Real Madrid legend.

The Messi vs Ronaldo debate will probably never go away – even if the former lifts the World Cup as Argentina captain on Sunday.

The Paris Saint-Germain forward has been in electric form in Qatar, scoring five goals on the way to reaching the final against France.

His club teammate Kylian Mbappe has been pretty decent as well and will provide a stern test for Messi’s teammates in Argentina’s back line.

Many people insist Ronaldo is the greatest footballer of all time, ahead of the likes of Messi, Diego Maradona, and Pele. This is a fair argument to make considering the goals he has scored in his career.

Lineker is one man who does not think the Portuguese forward is the best to do it.

He is very vocal about his love and admiration for Messi, and while he only hints that the Argentine magician is the greatest of all time, he does believe he is a level above Ronaldo.

Lineker does think Messi has an “edge” over Maradona, who he didn’t see enough of during his glorious playing career. The same applies to Brazilian legend Pele.

“You can only talk about people in your lifetime and I didn’t really see much of Pele as I was very young, but in my lifetime only [Diego] Maradona really can compare for just doing things that other mortals can’t do,” Lineker told

“You can compare people statistically in terms of goals – obviously [Cristiano] Ronaldo is a great footballer – but what separates Lionel Messi from even the greatest of players is that ability to do the things that others can’t do.

“Maradona is the only other player to do that and he didn’t do it over the period of time that Messi has, so that maybe gives [Messi] the edge.”

Having scored five and assisted five prior to the final, Lineker reckons Messi has done enough to be handed the Golden Ball.

“Messi will be player of the tournament, I think, whatever happens because of the consistency of his performances,” he added.

“Mbappe has produced some great performances and some magic moments but nowhere near as many as Messi – certainly not in the quarters or semis.

“He had one bit of magic that led to the second goal [against Morocco] whereas Messi has done incredible things throughout.”

READ MORE: Noppert to Richarlison via Messi and Mbappe: One-per-country team of the 2022 World Cup

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