Lineker: Messi's no Maradona
By Chris Stanton & Patricio Figueroa
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Gary Lineker believes Diego Maradona is the game's greatest ever player.
Former England international Gary Lineker has played down talk that Barcelona starlet Lionel Messi could be the new Diego Maradona.
In Argentina to conduct an interview with the legendary Maradona, Lineker hailed the Argentine World Cup winner as the game's greatest ever player.
Lineker also praised Maradona for scoring the greatest goal he has ever seen when he waltzed through The Three Lions' entire team single-handed to net his side's second goal of the match in the 2-1 World Cup win back in 1986.
Despite being in direct opposition to Maradona on that occasion, Lineker even admits he would have applauded the goal at the time had the match not been so important.
Maradona's stroke of brilliance was preceded five minutes earlier by the infamous 'hand of God' goal but Lineker believes that act does not tarnish the reputation of the all-time great.
"Diego has been the best player without a doubt, better than Pele," said Lineker.
"He could do things with his left foot that nobody else could do.
"The second goal that Maradona scored against England in Mexico was the best goal ever.
"That was the first time in my career that I almost applauded on the pitch something the opposition had done because it was a really good goal.
"If it hadn't have been such an important game I would have applauded it - it's really impressive to score a goal like that.
"Diego scored the most famous goals in football history. The first one, the 'hand of God', I didn't see because I was over the other side of the pitch but the second one was the best goal ever."
Lineker believes Maradona's compatriot Messi has the potential to be a 'great, great' player but claims comparisons with the former Boca Juniors star are premature.
Maradona has stated in the past that Messi has the potential to assume his own mantle in Jose Pekerman's side but Lineker concedes finding another player to match Maradona will prove very difficult.
"We've heard lots of times that Messi is the new Maradona, but it is a very big claim for such a young player," said Lineker.
"The truth is that he has the potential to be a great, great player.
"Another Diego will be very difficult to find, but you never know.
"Messi needs more experience, but he is among the best players in the world, with [Wayne] Rooney and Ronaldinho.
"They are able to do special things on the pitch."