When the irresistibly versatile Portuguese international Christiano Ronaldo scored two sublime goals for Manchester United against Bolton Wanderers in the English Premier League, he dribbled passed the club’s goal scoring record of 36 goals netted by the legendary George Best (N. Ireland) in one season by a winger (a non-striker) in 1967-68 being surpassed. His stunning 30 yards free-kick was a perfect occasion to celebrate the seemingly unthinkable achievement in today’s “restricted” mode of play. It’s once in a lifetime event set up in different scenario against all odds. Christiano Ronaldo can be honoured as the “Third Brazilian” for classic ball-play and distinctive all round skills like the great George Best who was called the Brazilian of British football, also dubbed the 5th Beatles for his long wavy hair with handsome face, and we have the real Brazilian world cupper Ronaldo. It’s quite appropriate that the Maverick superstar of European football, George Best, passed away proudly without seeing his phenomenal record which earned him European Footballer of the Year in 1968. The individual versality and the magnificent multi-role skills of young Christiano Ronaldo, Diego Maradona, Zidane and George Best made them a genuine cut above others. Welcome to the New Realm of sporting “Force-Multipliers.”
Pele, Michael Platini, Ronaldo, Puskas, Johan Cruff, Backebeaur, Garrincha, Vava, etc., were all the masters of their own game-play. Like Best, the temperamental star player Eric Cantona (France) and the Real Madrid superstar Alfredo di Stefano (Argentina/Spain) were one of the greatest footballers who never played a World Cup Football. There are galaxy of football stars who could play any game, anytime, anywhere by just blending into any team in the highest form of the game. There is always a room for endless argument and controversy when it comes to picking up a selected club of great footballers. But one has to keep in mind that there are lots of conditions, methods, systematic analysis, statistics from all eras, among others, to make any comment on this issue.
Who could be considered better than others and who would be called the bests of best? Original and skill, stamina, speed, temperament, statistics oppositions etc., are the main ingredients which moulded the best from the better ones, and to the status of footballing genius. Born on 22nd May, 1946, in Belfast, Northern Ireland, George Best, good and promising as he was, joined the Manchester United FC in 1963 as a 15 years old kid and scored his first goal as a winger against Burnley FC in his only second game with a stinger strike. He earned his first Cap for Northern Ireland at the age of 17 years. He was instrumental in Manchester United’s English (Premier) League triumph the very next year, with Sir Bobby Charlton and Denis Law to assist him. At the same time, the long wavy haired Best became an overnight sensation when he mesmerised the home team Benfica FC at Lisbon with dazzling display of skills to single-handedly win the match for Manchester United with two astounding goals and set up another fabulous goal.
Apart from the wings, George Best would deceptively dribbled into the top class European club’s defences and blast or curl in outrageous goals. He had the hot pace, the “Brazilian foot-work”, the stamina, natural ball control, remarkable variety of goal scoring shots like Pele, Maradona, Zidane, Cristiano Ronaldo, etc.. The most remarkable ability was the amazing fact that Best played his own individual game as and when he liked without compromising the team’s game plan!!! Just imagine the flow of an English “longball game” with just 2 or 3 international players where a young boy called George Best playing the swift short ball play all alone in the field more than two positions, and yet created, scored or passed the ball around without upsetting the team’s game-plan.
The time, vision and the ability to play a “game within a game” so successfully in all formats. At the age of 20 years, Best helped win Manchester United to become the ever English Club to win the European Champions Cup, along with the prestigious English (Premier) League title. Now, can Cristiano Ronaldo do the same for Manchester United to win European Champions League as well as the English Premier League title? He could if he has to stand proudly with the legendary name of George Best. C. Ronaldo has 10 international star players to back him with a similar flow of the game which Best and Maradona had not even in heydays at Manchester United and Napoli respectively. The qualities of Best’s stupendous goals, long rangers, breath taking volleys and flying headers and the trademark 20 yard curling shots from the edge, middle, and short corner of the box, after dribbling or wrong-footing past mesmerised defenders, were technically better than C. Ronaldo’s 38 goals so far.
On top of that Best played a little wide with electric pace along his 40-45 yards domain and suddenly cut in at angle without losing the momentum and keeping the ball close but not as long as C. Ronaldo who moves in from wide angle more as a laid back striker. The great Diego Maradona also played like C. Ronaldo as an attacking midfielder and laid-back striker where the legendary Pele was an artistic centre-forward and a brilliant goal scorer who had the best of wingers and creative midfielders in the form of incomparable Garrincha, Vava, Didi, Tastao Zagollo, plus a more prolific scoring partners in Jairzinho and Rivelino in both the 1958 and 1970 World Cup triumphs. The star-studded Brazilian team could win the 1958 World Cup without 17 years old Pele easily and did win again in 1962 edition without the injured Pele. The magical trio of Garrincha, Vava and Didi did the trick for back-to-back victories with the replacement scoring 5 decisive goals in all crucial matches. In 1966, England, a new Brazilian team was routed and in 1968 World Cup, the experienced Brazilians won the cup without the service of their more famous striker, Pele, who was injured in the first league round match. In 1970 World Cup, Pele led Brazil beat Italy with Jairzinho scoring 7 goals, which he scored in all the matches, and Rivelino chipping in with 9 goals but the main centre forward Pele scoring just 4 goals. Without Pele, the 1970 World Cup team could have won it with Amarildo as a centre-forward, like they did in 1962. But what about Argentina without Maradona in 1986 Mexico World Cup? Well, the winning Argentina team without Maradona could have reached only upto the Quarter-final or even the semi-final match if they have a quality strikers like Gabriel Batistuta and Hernan Crespo to be fed by a couple of world class midfielders/wingers like Simeoni, Tavez, Zanetti or Ronaldo. Maradona solo goals against England (Qtr-final) and two more solo goals from the left and right flank against Belgium (Semi-final) and his well-earned free-kick and delivery and the two decisive through ball passes against W. Germany were the real answers. Maradona, George Best, Pele, Zidane and Puskas were the best of the bests to be emulated by footballing generations to come. At present, Cristiano Ronaldo is a new candidate for future Legends.
The Sangai Express