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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

When Hansen came up against Diego Maradona

Just under 30 years ago, I played against current Argentina coach Diego Maradona when he scored his first goal for his country against Scotland at Hampden Park on 2 June, 1979.

Maradona was 18 at the time, and if ever one player was destined to be the greatest player in the world it was him.

You talk about the young players in this country, and we have one who is destined to win all the biggest awards in the coming weeks in Cristiano Ronaldo, but Maradona eclipsed him.

This is in no way meant as any criticism of Ronaldo, but he would not be in the same stratosphere as Maradona. It was June and the hottest day in Glasgow for 30 years and we could hardly get near him. He was just magnificent. Unbelievable, and just a kid as well.

You look at his achievements in winning the World Cup with Argentina in 1986 and inspiring them to the final and you see how good he was, but there are other stories as well.

He captained a Rest of the World team in one match, playing alongside Michel Platini, who was one of the best passers of the ball the game had ever seen, but even he was standing open-mouthed at some of the stuff Maradona was doing.

I can remember when I played against him that the ball was almost stuck to his feet. He had the most amazingly quick feet - again people talk about the quickness of Ronaldo's feet, and there is no doubt he is exceptional, but Maradona was just something else.

He was massively strong, scored goals, ran the game and was just the most fantastic talent.

When we played against him, Argentina were the reigning world champions from the previous summer and had people like Mario Kempes and Leopoldo Luque playing for them, the big stars of that World Cup. Maradona was actually 10 times better than them.

And he was so tough. I remember my old Liverpool team-mate Phil Neal telling me he put in a hard tackle on in him early on when England played Argentina a year later, as defenders did in those days, and he said Maradona didn't even flinch. He didn't even go down. He just had everything.

Sometimes you see these young players who have a lot of hype surrounding them, but we all knew that day that this was a player who was going to be the best in the world and he proved us all right.

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