World Cup 2022: A comparison of Lionel Messi and Diego Maradona's World Cup records

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Published: 12/19/2022 5:10:12 AM

The mercurial forward is regarded as one of the best players in the world over the last 15 or so years, having often done things few others can dream of on the pitch.

But while his trophy cabinet is filled with league titles and Champions League trophies, it is missing the grandest prize of all - the World Cup.

Now, in what is set to be his final appearance on football's biggest stage, Messi has the chance to emulate his late idol Diego Maradona.

Should Argentina beat France in Qatar on Sunday, they will lift their first World Cup since Maradona led the national team to success in 1986.

The question is often asked, who is better - Messi or Maradona?

Given both played in different eras, on different pitches and with different regulations in place, it feels impossible to answer.

But we can certainly compare their World Cup records and look at who was the most influential in their side's respective runs to the final.

Two geniuses guiding Argentina to glory?

Comparisons can certainly be drawn between this Argentina team and the one that last triumphed 36 years ago.

Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker, in Qatar for the current tournament, was in the England side that lost 2-1 to Maradona's Argentina in that controversial quarter-final in Mexico that featured the 'Hand of God' goal.

"I look at this Argentina side and I see one very similar to the side that won the World Cup in 1986," he said.

"They are very aggressive, they have a lot of strong, powerful players, not hugely gifted talent all over the field but they had a really good centre forward in Jorge Valdano in 1986 and now Julian Alvarez. Then they give the ball to a genius - Maradona and now Messi.

"It is a similar approach, but will it be good enough?"

Diego Maradona assisted eight goals at World Cups, including the winner in the final in 1986

Maradona provided the assist for Jorge Burruchaga's late winner as Argentina edged West Germany 3-2 in the 1986 showpiece, adding to their previous title success in 1978.

Messi's story for the final will be written on Sunday.

But there is not much between them, certainly in terms of end product, of how they impacted their side's respective run to the final.

Maradona scored or assisted nine of Argentina's 11 goals by the end of the semi-finals back in 1986, while Messi has contributed to eight of this current Argentina side's 12 goals.

Like Diego Maradona, Lionel Messi has assisted eight goals at World Cups, with one more game to come

Messi, 35, has certainly had some memorable moments in this tournament - his stunning goal against Mexico in the group stage and the magical assist versus Croatia in the semi-finals the standouts - but he has had some quiet spells in some games too.

Maradona, meanwhile, was widely regarded as having almost single-handedly taken Argentina to World Cup victory.

He is, of course, also remembered for both the 'Hand of God' goal and the brilliant solo strike in the win against England. But in the other games he stood out above all others too.

In total, Maradona completed an incredible 53 dribbles at the 1986 tournament (compared to 15 at this World Cup for Messi), and created 27 chances in the seven games they played.

Former France midfielder Zinedine Zidane, himself one of the best players of his era, spoke in 2020 about how he was mesmerised by Maradona's performance at those finals in Mexico.

"I was 14 then, and when you're 14 you're aware of everything," Zidane said. "It's really at that moment that I became aware of the player he was, making differences as he did. He won games single-handedly.

"That's the extra thing he had over the other players. In 1986, he was on another level."

Messi's moment to emulate Maradona?

Maradona v Messi at World Cups
PlayerDiego MaradonaLionel Messi
Games Played2125
Minutes Played1,9402,194
Goals + Assists1619
Total shots (inc. blocks)6999
Chances Created (inc. assists)6772
Dribbles Completed105125


What about their overall World Cup record?

This is Messi's fifth appearance in football's crown jewel event, having first appeared at the tournament in 2006. That takes him past Maradona's record after he appeared at four World Cups from 1982 until 1994.

Messi also made his 25th tournament appearance in Qatar, which means he has now played four more World Cup matches than Maradona.

Seven of Diego Maradona's eight goals were scored from open play, with none coming from the penalty spot

Sunday's final will be his 26th and, according to the diminutive Argentine, final appearance on football's biggest stage.

Overall, their stats are pretty similar, particularly when you account for Messi making more World Cup appearances.

Messi's number of goals and assists per 90 minutes averages 0.78, while it is slightly lower at 0.74 for Maradona.

Lionel Messi has 11 World Cup goals, six of them coming from open play and three from the penalty spot

They have both created a similar number of chances per 90 minutes (3.0 for Messi, 3.1 for Maradona) and completed a similar number of dribbles (5.1 for Maradona, 4.9 for Messi).

But all of the statistics will mean little to Messi if he is unable to guide his side to a World Cup final victory against France.

"The stars are aligned for Messi at this tournament," former England defender Rio Ferdinand said.

"When the question is asked who is the best, Maradona or Messi? - and people then say Messi has not won a World Cup. But this could be his moment."



Source: BBC

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