Kolkata: Rivalry between two of the world’s best players, Messi and Ronaldo has been a hot topic to debate on and with Ronlado equalling Messi’s record of winning the ‘FIFA Men’s Best Player’ award five times, the subject has earned more steam. But Dutch legend Marco Van Basten went the other way when he compared their rivalry to the much revered one of Swiss maestro Roger Federer and Spanish sensation Rafael Nadal.
The three times Ballon D’Or winner who arrived in the city on Thursday to attend the council meeting as FIFA’s chief officer for technical development said, “The rivalry between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo is like Federer and Nadal. As far as awards go, these two players have dominated. They have made football richer with their presence,” before adding that upcoming players should take inspiration from the two, to perform better.
Looking as fit as he has always been, the ‘flying Dutchman’ said that he was amazed at the quality of football in the U-17 World Cup and that he would have struggled at this age.
“The level is very high. I was at the Spain and Mali game and also saw the England-Brazil semi-final which was an interesting match. Technically and physically, these boys are so professional, so positive that this has become a very interesting tournament. At 16, that is a great thing. At that age, I wasn’t so professional. I was thin and couldn’t play at the level these boys have,” said the man who led Netherlands to their only title in 1988.
The Dutch national team however lies in jeopardy at the moment, after failing to qualify for both the 2017 Euro Championship and the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. But, Basten spoke in defence drawing comparison of the team to that of his time, when Netherlands failed to qualify for back-to-back World Cups (1982, 1986) but came back and won the Euros in 1988, with Basten scoring the winning goal against USSR, now a wonder goal.
“It is a bit of a problem because now we don’t have a good generation of players. We will need time. When I was growing up, we didn’t qualify for the 1982 and 1986 World Cup and the 1984 Euros. And then suddenly we won in 1988. It goes up and down. We are a small country,” he said asking fans to keep hope and wait for the next generation of players.
The FIFA Player of the Year in 1992 was also impressed with the host country’s performance in the U-17 World Cup, especially the 1-2 loss against Colombia in the group stages which India almost drew after Jeakson Singh’s historic goal. This tournament can be the turnout event for India in football development he observed, before concluding, “If so many people are interested, football will definitely grow here.”