India's top goal scorer Sunil Chhetri has given his verdict in 'the greatest player of all time' debate by picking Lionel Messi as the best player to have ever graced the game. Chhetri has also picked Germany, Spain, Brazil, and England as his top four favorites in the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
In world football, there has pretty much been only one competition in the last decade- Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi. With everyone having their say, Indian football’s man of the moment had his say on the debate. The 32-year-old, who has now scored 62 goals in 101 matches for India- two less than Messi, has chosen the Argentine as the greatest player to ever grace the game.
He even followed that up with his defence for the Barcelona legend, who was criticized following Argentina’s extra-time 1-0 loss to Germany in the 2014 World Cup. Before the final, Messi had scored 4 goals and was awarded 5 Man-of-the-Matches in the tournament.
“I don’t understand this logic. Before the final against Germany (at the last World Cup), everyone was all praise for Messi’s stunning show. Because he didn’t win that game, does that make him a lesser player? He would love to win a World Cup for his country, and I just hope for his sake that he gets another chance. But it doesn’t change the fact that he is the best player to have played football,” said Sunil Chhetri in his interview with TOI.
With just four days to go for the World Cup, Chhetri was asked to choose his best World Cup in all the years. He picked up the 1998 World Cup, where Zinedane Zidane had lifted the trophy for France, as his favourite memory.
“Being with my family and watching the games. For the past couple of World Cups, I missed doing it because I was either away or doing television (duty). The tournament that I will never forget is 1998. It was when Zidane scored those wonderful goals and won the tournament for France. I was in school, and it was great watching it with my mother and father. It will always remain special,” he said.
Despite teams like Italy and Netherlands failing to qualify for the World Cup stage, the tournament won’t be any less entertaining with the gigantic likes of Germany, Brazil, Spain and other gracing the extravaganza. And Chhetri had trouble picking his favourite.
“It’s difficult to pick one. Germany, Spain, Brazil and England are my top four. France and Belgium have great squads too. Portugal and Argentina have the best players in the world who will galvanise them. I don’t see a fairytale ending at the World Cup. If it happens, it will be great,” he added.
Chhetri also admitted that the dream of qualifying for the World Cup was far-fetched dream and pointed out that being ranked in the top 10 Asian teams would be a more realistic target.
“Right now, it’s a far-fetched dream. I don’t wonder why we are not playing, because I know why we are not playing. We are simply not at that standard. All that I do is think about how I can contribute and make our team better. I think about more visible and achievable targets. Like being in the top 10 or 12 in Asia. Once we get there, we will get a chance to rub shoulders with the best teams in Asia. Then you know where you stand and can build on your dream,” he said.
Chhetri had posted a video before the match against Kenya, pleading people to come and watch the match. The video did create a buzz and the stadium was full in his 100th match against Kenya. To put cherry on the icing, Chhetri even scored a brace to make the event even more memorable. He insisted that people need to talk about the Indian football, which would create a pressure on other teams playing India on their home ground.
“We need people to be involved with football. I am saying, ‘come, watch and talk about us.’ It’s important for everyone to have an opinion. That will create a buzz, create invisible pressure and will keep everyone on their toes,” he added.
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