Messi vs. Maradona: Comparing Two Stunning, Iconic Photos

The Spot
Slate's soccer blog.
June 17 2014 3:26 PM

Messi vs. Maradona: Comparing Two Stunning, Iconic Photos

Argentina's Lionel Messi (C top) scores a goal past Bosnia's goalkeeper Asmir Begovic (bottom) during their 2014 World Cup.
Argentina's Lionel Messi is magic.

Photo by Pawel Kopczynski/Reuters/FotoWare/FotoStation/MED

Argentine superstar Lionel Messi can’t help but be compared with his countryman Diego Maradona. Sometimes the results can be unflattering to the star striker. But we think the following comparison favors Messi.

His brilliant game-winning goal versus Bosnia and Herzegovina on Sunday produced this instantly iconic image of five stumbling Bosnian defenders.

Argentina's Lionel Messi (C top) scores a goal past Bosnia's goalkeeper Asmir Begovic (bottom) during their 2014 World Cup Group F soccer match at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro.
Messi doing his Messi thing.

Photo by Pawel Kopczynski/Reuters/FotoWare/FotoStation/MED

Advertisement

It immediately brought to mind this photo of Maradona appearing to take on half of the Belgian team at the 1982 World Cup.

Diego Maradona of Argentina #10 is confronted by a posse of Belgium defenders during the match in the 1982 Wold Cup in Spain.
Maradona versus a scared-looking Belgian team.

Photo by Jeremy Stahl, original photo by Steve Powell/Allsport

This is a case though where Maradona did it first, but Messi did it best.

The 1982 photo, while a perfect encapsulation of Maradona’s usual dominance, is incredibly misleading. According to this analysis by the Irish website The Score, footage of that game reveals that the Belgian players had been lined up in a wall to defend a free kick when the ball was passed to Maradona. The Belgian defense was naturally in that shape, but when they all turned to see the pass to Maradona, it looked like they were all there to defend him. Maradona was certainly capable of dancing through entire defenses. While his photo represents that concept perfectly, it doesn’t actually show it.

Meanwhile, the Messi photograph is an accurate illustration of his dominance in that precise moment. After a gorgeous one-two with striker Gonzalo Higuaín, Messi strolled around four defenders and fired a shot just outside of the goalkeeper’s diving reach.

It was one of the goals of the tournament and a clear instance where the legend of Messi beats the legend of Maradona.

Looking for a case where Maradona did it better? Check out this side-by-side comparison of his second goal (the non-“Hand of God” one) against England at the 1986 World Cup and a similar-looking Messi goal for Barcelona. Advantage, Maradona.

Jeremy Stahl is a Slate senior editor. You can follow him on Twitter.

 

TODAY IN SLATE

The Slatest

Ben Bradlee Dead at 93

The legendary Washington Post editor presided over the paper’s Watergate coverage.

This Scene From All The President’s Men Captures Ben Bradlee’s Genius

Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

Whole Foods Is Desperate for Customers to Feel Warm and Fuzzy Again

The XX Factor

I’m 25. I Have $250.03.

My doctors want me to freeze my eggs.

The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I’m 25. I Have $250.03. My doctors want me to freeze my eggs.
Technocracy

Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

George Tiller’s Murderer Threatens Another Abortion Provider, Claims Free Speech

The Congressional Republican Digging Through Scientists’ Grant Proposals

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 21 2014 3:13 PM Why Countries Make Human Rights Pledges They Have No Intention of Honoring
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 21 2014 5:57 PM Soda and Fries Have Lost Their Charm for Both Consumers and Investors
  Life
The Vault
Oct. 21 2014 2:23 PM A Data-Packed Map of American Immigration in 1903
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 21 2014 3:03 PM Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 21 2014 1:02 PM Where Are Slate Plus Members From? This Weird Cartogram Explains. A weird-looking cartogram of Slate Plus memberships by state.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 21 2014 9:42 PM The All The President’s Men Scene That Perfectly Captured Ben Bradlee’s Genius
  Technology
Technology
Oct. 21 2014 11:44 PM Driving in Circles The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.
  Health & Science
Climate Desk
Oct. 21 2014 11:53 AM Taking Research for Granted Texas Republican Lamar Smith continues his crusade against independence in science.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.