ERIC WEIL in BUENOS AIRES: Diego Maradona has said, albeit not for the first time, that he would have been a much better player if he had not taken drugs as a result of which he had two drug suspensions and was interned in hospital twice when near death. He still alive at 53 but says he feels like 80.

Every player needs a good team to be outstanding. Maradona had that with Boca Juniors here in Argentina and with Napoli though maybe not Barcelona in Europe as well but he won a World Cup with both Argentina youth and senior national teams.

Young and old: Two faces of Diego Maradona

Pele had his Santos and the Brazilian national team who, in his own day, were on top of the world and he shone among several other stars.#

Lionel Messi has Barcelona, but perhaps not so much Argentina and people say he cannot compare to Maradona until he wins a World Cup . . . which is surely nonsense because he is only one of 11 players in the team.

One of many critics of Messi – who all made Juan Rom├ín Riquelme quit the national team and very nearly Messi also – wrote that he “hid himself” during this year’s World Cup, but I maintain he was hidden.

Far and near

This was more evident than ever in the final against Germany when he was peripheral on the wing and rarely near goal.

He should have been stationed nearer the penalty area where, if continually fouled, as happened elsewhere, he would either obtain a good free-kick (at which he is good at) or penalty for Argentina.

Messi will probably finish up with more goals scored and more internationals played than either Pele or Maradona, but such “records” mean nothing.

Football was different in their day. Five forwards in Pele’s time made scoring easier and there were fewer international and club competitions which left less chance of scoring goals and playing internationals. There is no way to compare, but people keep doing it.

** Argentina’s authorities never give up trying to make people believe that they are doing something to stop soccer hooligans. On Thursday and Friday the Argentine security committee is organising an International Synopsis to find the answers.

After listening to talks by different people – including the Brazilian who was in charge of security at this year’s World Cup – and presumably a cocktail and banquet, everybody will go home and life will go on as before.