The Italian former player and manager believes that it is impossible to say which of the two Argentine greats is the best
Former Napoli midfielder Ottavio Bianchi has said that comparing Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi is like comparing Picasso to Mozart.
Messi and Barcelona travel to Naples – where Maradona is a club legend – for the first leg of their Champions League round of 16 tie on Tuesday night.
The two Argentine superstars have often been compared to each other, but Bianchi believes that it is impossible to say who is better due to the different eras in which they played.
“I played with [Enrique Omar] Sivori, an impressive Argentine left-footer, I trained Diego [Maradona] and I would have loved to work with Messi,” Bianchi said exclusively to Goal.
“I try to watch him whenever I can because I’m in love with these kinds of players – the kinds of players that have football in their blood.
“But they come from different times – it’s like when people compare Maradona, [Johan] Cruyff and Messi. All I can say is that it has been a pleasure to see each and every one on the pitch. We’re fortunate that in each era we’ve had a succession of players of this magnitude.
“It’s the same with artists; you might like [Henri] Matisse, [Paul] Gauguin, [Pablo] Picasso, Beethoven, Mozart or whoever, but they are all so far outside the established parameters that all you can do is wait for the next genius to appear in each respective discipline.
“They are so good that trying to compare them and their distinctions just isn’t nice. You can’t classify the best painters or musicians because everyone lives in their own time in history.”
Bianchi also commented on the situation at Barcelona, with reports of a falling-out between club captain Messi and director of football Eric Abidal, and hopes his former side can take advantage when the pair meet.
“I read in the newspapers that there are big problems at Barcelona and what I do know is that these kinds of players need a very particular environment to express their full greatness,” Bianchi continued.
“If they are sad, it’s a lot more difficult for them. Traditionally, players of that kind of quality can’t showcase their full footballing talents if something is bothering them. It seems to me that Barca aren’t in the best health at the moment.
“Institutional problems are usually noticeable on the pitch and Messi looks somewhat sad on the field. He can’t just win on his own, just as Maradona couldn’t.
“He needs to be surrounded by high-level players and that’s why he had his best years with the two phenomenons Xavi and Andres Iniesta behind him.
“Iniesta is the ideal player for any team. He’s a player that has everything to be the ideal footballer prototype. Messi is a pure talent, but Iniesta is as desirable as a player can be.
“So with Barcelona having their problems and Napoli having nothing to lose, they have enough skill in the squad to create serious problems for Barca.”