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Messi or Maradona? Pope Francis adds a third name into GOAT debate



The debate behind who the greatest soccer player of all time is has many twists and turns but now Pope Francis has weighed in. From Argentina, Pope Francis was asked if Lionel Messi or Diego Maradona were the best soccer players ever and he responded by adding Pele into the mix while speaking to the Italian TV show TG1..

While Messi won his eighth Ballon d’Or trophy as the best soccer player in the world, that wasn’t enough for him to top Francis’ rankings of soccer players.

“I would add a third, Pele,” Pope Francis said. “They are the three I have followed. All three are great, each with his own specialty. At the moment Messi is very good.”

During his career, Pele helped redefine the game scoring 606 goals for Santos and the New York Cosmos while also scoring 77 more in international play for Brazil while lifting various honors including three World Cup titles in 1958, 1962, and 1970. Francis did elaborate on his answer speaking about Maradona’s life.

“Maradona as a man failed, poor thing, he slipped, the people around him didn’t help him,” Pope Francis said “He came to see me the first year [I was pontiff]. [His life] ended badly. It’s funny, many sportsmen end badly, even in boxing. It’s curious.”

Pope Francis spoke about Maradona’s struggles with addiction before turning back to praise Pele during the show.

“Messi is very correct, he is a gentleman. Among these three, the greatest gentleman is Pele,” Pope Francis said. “He is a man with a very big heart. I spoke to him, I met him on a plane in Buenos Aires, and he is a man of great humanity.”

One absence from his list is Cristiano Ronaldo as the Portuguese forward has dominated GOAT discussions alongside Messi but with the Argentine capturing his first World Cup title in 2022, it has elevated him in the discussions.

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