The head coach of the Nigerian national team played against the late Argentine legend when they were both in their prime, and he does not doubt that the Napoli icon has few equals
Manager Gernot Rohr admits that Argentina hero Diego Armando Maradona was one of the greatest players to grace the game, highlighting the late playmaker’s qualities with the ball at his feet.
While comparing Diego Maradona to his fellow Argentine great Lionel Messi, the Super Eagles handler insists that the Barcelona forward is better than the 1986 FIFA World Cup winner.
Maradona arrived in Europe in 1982 in a world-record transfer to Barcelona and spent two excellent years at Camp Nou before departing for Italy’s Napoli in another world record transfer fee of £6.9 million.
He was instrumental as Napoli claimed two Serie A titles, the UEFA Cup, the Coppa Italia, and the Supercoppa Italiana, during his seven-year stay at the club.
En route to lifting that UEFA Cup in 1989, Maradona’s Napoli duelled against Girondins Bordeaux – which had a certain Gernot Rohr as a fullback – in the last sixteen round of the old UEFA competition in December 1988.
Rohr maintains that encounter and a similar one with Maradona convinced him that the former Barcelona star was an incredible footballer.
“I was lucky enough to play him twice,” Rohr told German regional newspaper, Mannheimer Morgen.
“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.”
But when asked if Maradona was the greatest footballer of all time, the German tactician claimed that Messi was better than his celebrated compatriot.
“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.
1986 World Cup winner Maradona died aged 60 after suffering a cardiac arrest at his home in Tigre, Buenos Aires, Argentina, in November 2020.