Diego Armando Maradona is often revered as the God of football for his enviable and inimitable trickery with the ball at his feet.
But how does an individual earn the tag “God of football”? It could be the number of goals he scores, or the World Cup medals he earns, but more often than not, such a sobriquet is given to the player by the fans who tend to do the magical and unthinkable stuff on the field.
The “magical” stuff could be something like bending a curler from long distance to beat the keeper, or dribbling through a number of defenders to score a goal. When you have an illustrious trophy cabinet to go with it, the fans are bound to place the player on a high pedestal.
Maradona, the God of football
Diego Maradona, known as the God of football, produced mind-boggling exploits on a weekly basis for club and country. Maradona, who scored 352 goals for club and country, is widely regarded as the greatest football player of all time.
When Argentina won the FIFA World Cup in 1986, Maradona spearheaded the team with crucial goals, including a brace in the quarter-final against England.
That includes the infamous “Hand of God” and also the unforgettable second where Maradona sprinted over 50 yards with the ball to place it past Peter Shilton. The second goal he scored that day is often hailed as the “Goal of the Century”.
Maradona also scored twice in the semi-final against Belgium and was given the Golden Ball for his extravagant performances on the field.
In his club career, he could not win a league title with Barcelona but led Napoli to two Serie A titles in 1986-87 and 1989-90. Those are the only league titles Napoli has won in its history.
Shortly after his passing, the stadium in Naples was named after him as a mark of respect.
Whilst Maradona is most popularly known as the God of football, there are some other football legends who have been given this tag as a mark of respect.
Pele, the Brazilian God of football
Brazilian legend Pele is also referred to as the Brazilian God of football. The only player to have won three World Cups in history, Pele scored 15 goals in the tournament history, the most until Miroslav Klose broke his record in the 2014 edition.
For Brazil, he scored 77 times in 92 matches and is the highest goal-scorer for his country.
Pele spent nearly all of his club career with Brazilian club Santos, scoring 643 goals for them in just 659 appearances. He had a brief stint with New York Cosmos, where scored 66 goals in the three seasons he spent in the now-defunct North American League soccer.
Lionel Messi, the 21st century God of football
Lionel Messi is another player regarded as the God of football by fans. Arguably the greatest footballer of the 21st century, Messi is the second greatest goal-scorer in the game’s history with 764 goals to his credit, including 90 for his country.
During his time with Barcelona, Messi won 10 league titles, four Champions League titles, three club World Cups and three UEFA Super Cups. He also scored 672 goals for the Catalan club in all competitions.
The Argentine winger won the Ballon d’Or seven times, more than any other player in history. However, Messi is yet to win a World Cup title with Argentina, the only major trophy missing his illustrious cabinet.
Cover Image: AFP