Ronaldo my toughest opponent, Messi changed a generation, but Pele changed football – Dani Alves

By Sports Desk September 16, 2022

Barcelona great Dani Alves feels his Brazilian compatriot Pele – and not Lionel Messi – holds the strongest claim to the 'greatest of all time' title because he "changed football".

Alves played alongside Messi for eight years during his first spell at Camp Nou, forming a devastating relationship with the Argentinian on the right flank.

Both players were pillars of a Barcelona team that enjoyed a prolonged period of dominance both in Spain and Europe, with Alves winning 23 trophies during his initial eight-season stint in Catalonia.

And yet, despite seeing Messi's brilliance up close and personal, Alves – who now plays in Mexico for UNAM Pumas – still believes Pele's significance is at an altogether different level.

Speaking to Mexico, Real Madrid and Pumas legend Hugo Sanchez on ESPN, Alves was asked to pick between Messi and Pele – he said: "I choose Pele for one reason: he changed football. Messi changed a generation.

"All those people who are more than football, I'm going to choose them. And besides, I'm Brazilian.

"For me, Pele should not be part of this ['GOAT'] debate. If you ask me, who is the best player in history? I would say Messi. Pele doesn't come into it."

Cristiano Ronaldo was not brought into the 'GOAT' discussion, though Alves did appraise his former Clasico rival when asked about his toughest opponent.

"Cristiano Ronaldo," Alves added. "This b****** doesn't let you breathe for a second. I didn't do too badly, but it's difficult. He's a scoring machine."

Now 39, Alves is continuing his illustrious and immensely successful career in Liga MX having signed a one-year deal with Pumas in July.

He made the switch to Mexico City after spending eight months back at Barcelona, returning to help out his former team-mate Xavi.

It remains to be seen if he will be at Pumas beyond the current season, though he suggests thoughts of retirement have not firmly taken root, even joking he could play for another 10 years if Messi breaks his world record of 47 trophies won.

"First, before requesting anything [another season with Pumas], I like to deliver," he said.

"I have a year to prove myself with [Pumas]. I wouldn't have a problem [staying another year]. I need to show them that I can, that together we can build a very cool team in Mexico, that plays in a different way, that [lets] young people take a step forward.

"I don't like to think about the future because it's always unknown. I let life take me. If Messi passes me [in trophies] then I'm going to play until I'm 50!"

Related items

  • Barcelona boss Xavi reveals he turned down opportunity to join Brazil Barcelona boss Xavi reveals he turned down opportunity to join Brazil

    Barcelona boss Xavi has revealed he was offered a role as part of Brazil's backroom team ahead of the World Cup, but turned it down to hold out for the top job with the Blaugrana.

    The former Spain international succeeded Ronald Koeman last year in charge at Camp Nou, and has helped to revive fortunes at the Catalan side since his arrival.

    Though his team have slipped into the Europa League for a second season running, they remain competitive in the domestic top-flight, sitting two points ahead of rivals Real Madrid at the World Cup break.

    Xavi has revealed he was approached by Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) president Rogerio Caboclo over a role with the Selecao during his time in charge at Al Sadd, but that he turned them down to hold out for Barca.

    "It was an opportunity [that came] through the president of the CBF," Xavi told ESPN. 

    "They [came] to Qatar, and they talked to me, [and asked if] I could be part of Tite's staff.

    "But I wanted to be a coach, not an assistant. My desire was to be a coach.

    "It would be a tremendous opportunity - it was [a chance] to make history, to be the first European to work in the Brazilian national team.

    "But, at that moment, it did not happen. I was clear that I wanted to be coach of Barcelona, ​​which was my dream, and here I am."

    However, Xavi teased he would not rule out taking up the chance if it was offered again, adding: "You never know. It would be a spectacular opportunity.

    "But my intention was to take over Barcelona. You never know about the future [though]. I'm working hard, and you can't rule anything out."

  • Messi rides to the rescue, but shaky Argentina's World Cup dream looks a fantasy too far Messi rides to the rescue, but shaky Argentina's World Cup dream looks a fantasy too far

    Ghosts everywhere. In the stands, where the spectre of Diego Maradona was waving his fists, wondering how Argentina could put in such a vapid performance.

    On the pitch, where the shadows of Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain were sprinting through the middle, looking for a pass or clearing a path for Lionel Messi.

    The ghosts of Argentina's past haunted them for large parts of Saturday's game against Mexico, as the present almost became a living nightmare.

    Lionel Scaloni's team were in dire danger of heading out of this World Cup after two games, the champions of South America last year vulnerable to a humbling on the global stage, until a flash of Messi magic changed everything.

    A swish of that left boot from 25 yards, and the ball zipped into the bottom-right corner. It had to be him.

    On the night Messi matched Maradona's Argentina record of 21 World Cup appearances, he also moved level with El Diego on eight goals in his career at the finals, two behind national team record holder Gabriel Batistuta. For Messi, those World Cup goals have all come in the group stage, something he came to Qatar to change and still might.

    Losing to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday was bad enough for Argentina, but at least there would be a reaction against the Mexicans. Perhaps it might be the spur they needed, and perhaps it could still be Messi's World Cup.

    Those were theories that were widely voiced, yet for an hour they looked to be utter bunkum.

    Even at 90 minutes, with a 2-0 scoreline barely reflecting the flow of the game, you were left fearing Argentina might find a way to trip up against Poland next time out. If they finish second in this group, it will almost certainly be France waiting for them in the second round, and on the evidence so far, Argentina would be mauled by Les Bleus.

    Messi and Co arrived at this tournament on a 36-game unbeaten run, but such has been their languid start you would have been forgiven for guessing they played all 36 of those games in the last month.

    Here they were off the pace from the start, lacking any obvious strategy, down on energy, praying for Messi to conjure something. It had an air of Barcelona in the final days of Ronald Koeman's reign about it.

    Scaloni has backed Lautaro Martinez to be his lone striker, and there might have to be a rethink on that score. Martinez has a shot conversion rate of 12.9 per cent this season for Inter, which is not ideal for a striker, and has been finding the net at club level every 206.25 minutes.

    He has Edin Dzeko up alongside him for the Nerazzurri, who has been more clinical with his chances, but with Argentina it is Martinez who leads the line ostensibly alone.

    This team used to have an embarrassment of attacking riches, and they desperately miss prime era Higuain and Aguero.

    Martinez has a strong scoring record for his country, but he was ineffective here, his second game at his first World Cup.

    When a clear chance came his way in the 40th minute, after a fine cross from the right by Di Maria, he planted a header way off target. It was his one goal attempt. Argentina only had five shots all night, which was still one more than Mexico. Their combined total of shots is the fewest ever recorded in a World Cup, based on studies of matches going back as far as 1966.

    There was a moment late in the first half that looked to be typifying Argentina's night: Mexico's Alexis Vega had a free-kick well saved by Emiliano Martinez shortly before half-time and Argentina went on the break, with Messi looking to dance down the right and make something happen.

    Except, those feet don't dance as quickly as they once did, and the ball was soon swept into touch. At Paris Saint-Germain, with Neymar and Kylian Mbappe for company, the gradual decline of Messi is not quite so obvious. He can be a joy to behold in that company still, but when all the attention of defenders is on him, as it inevitably was this time, he was being too easily crowded out and barged off the ball.

    In the second half, Erick Gutierrez hacked down Messi when he got close to the edge of the box and began to sprint, and Argentina had the chance they wanted. Messi punted it over the crossbar, and you just sensed it would not be his night.

    And then Messi decided that, actually, yes it would be.

    At the age of 35, he cannot win a World Cup by himself, but he can still come up with magical moments, and it was a goal for the career showreels, a stroke of familiar genius at the Lusail Iconic Stadium, which will stage this tournament's final.

    For the second time in his career, Messi has scored in six consecutive international games for his country. He remains a joy of a player, and his country's biggest hope.

    Substitute Enzo Fernandez added a late second goal that flattered Argentina, and it made the Benfica player, at 21 years and 313 days, the youngest Argentina scorer at a World Cup since the 18-year-old Messi announced himself at the 2006 finals. The past might still be a haunting influence, but here was a glimpse into the future.

    A smiling Messi celebrated with relieved supporters at the end. For just a fleeting moment in this game, he had been afforded a yard of space and made it count.

    Friday marked two years since the death of Maradona. He is Argentina's past, yet you still almost expect television cameras to pan to him in the stands.

    Messi has spent his life trying to live up to the legend of Maradona, and that shared super-natural brilliance has just about kept Argentina's hopes alive in Qatar.

  • Argentina 2-0 Mexico: Messi strike helps ignite La Albiceleste's World Cup campaign Argentina 2-0 Mexico: Messi strike helps ignite La Albiceleste's World Cup campaign

    Lionel Messi was once again Argentina's saviour with the breakthrough goal in a 2-0 win over Mexico at Lusail Stadium to ignite his side's World Cup campaign.

    Poland's 2-0 victory over Saudi Arabia earlier on Saturday left Argentina needing to avoid defeat against Mexico if they were not to exit the competition after just two games.

    Argentina put their shock 2-1 loss against Saudi Arabia behind them thanks to Messi's long-range opener after 64 minutes and Enzo Fernandez's equally-as-impressive late strike.

    Lionel Scaloni's men join Saudi Arabia on three points and are one point behind Group C leaders Poland, who they face in their final match, while Mexico are bottom on one point.

    Argentina made five changes on the back of their opening loss, three of those in defence, and they failed to register a meaningful attempt in the first half.

    Mexico went closest to opening the scoring before the interval through an Alexis Vega free-kick that called Emiliano Martinez into action.

    The quality only marginally improved in the second half, but out of nowhere Messi controlled Angel Di Maria's pass and fired a low shot past Guillermo Ochoa from 25 yards.

    That strike took Messi level with fellow great Diego Maradona on eight World Cup goals for Argentina, who added a second through substitute Fernandez.

    With three minutes left, the Benfica midfielder received a pass from Messi following a short corner, worked his way into the box and then curled away from Ochoa into the top corner.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.