The Nigerian icon is widely regarded as one of the most gifted African footballers ever, but some are convinced he was even better at manipulating the ball between his feet than arguably the greatest player in history
Barcelona legend Lionel Messi is often compared with goalscoring king and eternal rival Cristiano Ronaldo, fellow Argentine wizard Diego Maradona, and Brazilian football hero Pele.
But the Camp Nou god may be facing an unlikely opponent in the debate corner for a long time to come in Nigeria’s iconic master of the dribble, Austin Jay-Jay Okocha.
It’s nearing two decades since Okocha retired from football but not before leaving his mark as one of the best dribblers of the game.
During a career spanning over 15 years, the former midfielder rolled the ball with ease past defenders in Germany, Turkey, France, and England.
And Okocha’s wonder-goal against legendary goalkeeper Oliver Kahn after dribbling half a dozen defenders, some twice, in the earlier nineties remains one of his enduring legacies.
A successful international career also sees him help Nigeria win the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations tournament and the football gold at the Atlanta Olympic Games two years later, among several other honours.
But Messi has been almost incomparable from the moment he was old enough to kick a football.
Averaging several dribbles a game, scoring fantastic goals, being the MVP of major tournaments, and winning trophies for Barcelona have become a norm for the Argentine maestro so much that he is considered the best ever.
A Nigerian football enthusiast and a Chelsea fan, however, believes that Okocha is a better dribbler than Messi, sparking a big debate on Twitter.
Here are some of the reactions cupped from the micro-blogging social media site.
Jay Jay holds the record for most dribbles completed in a world Cup versus Italy in 94.. many of u are just kids who know nothing. Messi has played in several world cups and has yet to match that Stat. Says a lot— IamBrisky (@FreakyBrisky) March 27, 2021
Don't disrespect Messi pls, no doubt Jay-Jay Okocha is a gifted footballer, his football skills are top notch but Messi is a better dribbler. Personally I think Messi is better than Cristiano Ronaldo when it comes to football but Ronaldo is more popular. Messi is an inspiration.— Daniel Regha (@DanielRegha) March 27, 2021
You guys don’t know difference between dribbling and having skills, okocha have skills more than Messi , but Messi is a better dribbler. Dribbling is about beating your opponent and Messi is better at that than okocha— Santos (@thatbiafraboy) March 27, 2021
Actually Okocha could dribble the whole team with the keeper and the post if he wanted to. The difference is he wasn't purposeful with his crazy skills.He just enjoyed the game.Messi is a better player cos he is purposeful.— rockbasemuzik (@rockbasemuzik) March 27, 2021
Which dribble,, messi can not reach Ronaldinho,, and Ronaldinho self no reach okocha for dribble,, so wetin u dey talk— Daystar (@DaystarVentures) March 27, 2021
This is the best Okocha Compilation video I’ve ever watched… Nigga was very skillful and no one dare doubt that but saying he’s a better dribbler than Messi is a drunkard talk… he couldn’t even dribble two players in a spot pic.twitter.com/TMqjHTLaxM— BrAveAkinKunmi ❼ (@Prudent005) March 27, 2021
Messi has only featured for Barcelona all his life, but he may end that association with the Spanish side this summer with PSG and Manchester City a possible destination.
Okocha counts Frankfurt, Fenerbahce, PSG, and Bolton Wanderers among the clubs he played for when he was active.