Super Eagles manager, Gernot Rohr, has admitted that Argentine soccer legend, Diego Maradona was one of the greatest players to grace the round leather game, but he was not better than Barcelona super star, Lionel Messi.
Rohr recalled that he faced the former Napoli midfielder twice before hanging up his boots.
He further stressed that assuming Messi and Maradona played in the same era, Maradona could have been in the same bracket as his compatriot, Messi.
“I have a lot of sympathy for Messi. He’s a bit better because he was also very fair within a team and to the opponent – and didn’t have to score a goal with his hand (laughs),” said the Super Eagles coach.
The German football tactician, who was a right back in his playing days, revealed that he was assigned man-marking duties on the left-footed Maradona when Bordeaux faced off with Napoli in the last sixteen second leg of the old UEFA Cup in December 1988, a test he passed with flying colours as he prevented the number 10 from scoring.
Asked if Maradona was the greatest footballer of all time, Rohr said: “I was lucky enough to play him twice. In 1983 he was even my direct opponent at the 100th anniversary of Girondins Bordeaux against Barcelona, and then again in the 1988/89 UEFA Cup, which Maradona then won with SSC Napoli.
“He was a gifted footballer. Maradona was smart, didn’t run much, but his left foot sucked the ball.
“Unfortunately, he had to fight hard after football. Applied to today’s conditions, one could compare him to Lionel Messi.”
1986 World Cup winner Maradona passed away at the age of 60 in November 2020 after suffering a heart attack.
Meanwhile, Rohr has highlighted that the Super Eagles lost to current African champions Algeria in a friendly staged in Austria two months ago because he was missing the services of several of his regular starters.
Victor Osimhen was barred from joining the Super Eagles squad as the Napoli players were ordered into quarantine following three positive COVID-19 cases, while Oghenekaro Etebo, Daniel Akpeyi, Joe Aribo and Wilfred Ndidi pulled out of the squad owing to injuries.
Ramy Bensebaini decided the game with a left-footed shot from the center of the box in the sixth minute, handing Nigeria their first loss since they were defeated by the same opponent at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.
“The defeat against Algeria in October was the first international match after an eleven-month break,” Rohr said.
“We were missing half of the team because Covid-19 made it difficult to get everyone together.
“You weren’t even allowed to come from some European countries like England or Italy, where I have important players.
“It was not a year, especially for national teams, to which one can apply normal standards.”
Nigeria ended 2020 without a win in four matches, having drawn their other games against Tunisia (friendly) and Sierra Leone (two AFCON qualifiers).