TOKYO: World Cup winner Ossie Ardiles said Lionel Messi is better than his former teammate Diego Maradona even though the Barcelona star has yet to find success with Argentina`s national team.
"I played with Maradona for seven years and he was magnificent," Ardiles said at a press conference on Wednesday. "I thought I would never see another player like that but I have to say Messi is better."
Ardiles said he was confident Messi can help Argentina win a World Cup before his career is over.
"Messi hasn`t had the results with the national team yet but I am sure that will come," Ardiles said. "There is a natural evolution and players today are just getting better. Messi is by far the best."
Maradona captained Argentina to victory in the 1986 World Cup and was captain of the team that reached the final in 1990. Messi played for Argentina at the 2006 and 2010 World Cups where the team lost in the quarterfinals.
The 59-year-old Ardiles, who won the World Cup with Argentina in 1978 before playing and coaching English club Tottenham, was hired in January to manage the newly-promoted Japanese second-division club Machida Zelvia.
Zelvia currently is 17th in the 22-team J2 standings with two wins and five losses after seven games but Ardiles said he is taking a long-term approach with the young team.
"I`m not too worried about the standings," Ardiles said. "Things are getting better little by little and our goal is to get into the top division and win the J-League championship."
He also managed Newcastle, West Bromwich Albion and club teams in Mexico, Croatia, Spain and Paraguay.
Ardiles coached the J-League`s Shimizu S-Pulse from 1996 to 1998 and was named Manager of the Year in `98. He became coach of Yokohama F Marinos in January 2000, but was let go in June 2001 following a poor start to the season.
From 2003 to 2005 he coached Tokyo Verdy, where he helped the team win the 2004 Emperor`s Cup. But in July 2005 he was fired after a nine game winless streak.
Japanese football has come a long way since he first coached there, but Ardiles says much work remains.
"There is no doubt it is better but Japanese football has hit a ceiling," Ardiles said. "They need to change the culture here to take it to the next level where you could compete against the elite teams."
BDST: 1924 HRS, April 12, 2012
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