Usain Bolt weighs in on the Cristiano-Messi-Van Dijk debate
He talks Bailey, Mbappe, Neymar, Pogba, Rashford, Sancho and Sterling
Which three footballers would he pick to run a 4x100 metres relay with?
Usain Bolt knows a thing or two about being #TheBest. The Jamaican is the only athlete in history to win three Olympic golds in one track event – and he did it in both the 100 and 200 metres. ‘Lightning Bolt’ boasts eight Olympic golds overall, as well as 11 IAAF World Championships and three still-standing global records.
FIFA.com caught up with the 33-year-old to discuss whether Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi or Virgil van Dijk should be crowned at The Best FIFA Football Awards™ on Monday, as well as Kylian Mbappe, Neymar, Paul Pogba, Raheem Sterling and his recently-relinquished attempt at a career as a striker.
FIFA.com: Usain, you recently announced you had relinquished your quest for a football career. Can you tell us about that decision, and could you be persuaded to give it another shot? I love playing football but at my age and with all my other commitments, it was difficult to dedicate the time required to make it a success professionally. I will continue playing at celebrity and charity events like Soccer Aid.
If you’d attempted a career as a professional footballer as a teenager, instead of one as an athlete, how far do you think you could have gone in football? It is hard to say. As much as I love football, I have no regrets as my T&F career has brought me a lot of success. I would not change anything.
Cristiano, Messi and Van Dijk are the three finalists for The Best FIFA Men’s Player award. Who do you think deserves it this year? All three are wonderful players. I think Messi and Ronaldo have won this award five times each. Van Dijk just won the UEFA Award and based on the success of Liverpool last season it may be his turn. As a Manchester United fan, I would probably vote for Ronaldo!
Who do you think had the better career: Cristiano or Messi? Both of them! I hear a lot of people have this debate but both of them are footballing geniuses. I have always been a big Ronaldo fan and I admire the way he has been successful in different leagues – England, Spain and now Italy.
Cristiano and Messi are both approaching the end of their careers. Who do you foresee taking over as the best player in the world? There are a lot of exciting young players – Mbappe, Neymar Jr., Jadon Sancho. It will be interesting to see how the former Ajax players Mattthijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong do at their new clubs, as well as Eden Hazard at Real. I am friends with Raheem Sterling, Paul Pogba and Leon Bailey and hope they can keep playing well.
Two of those players were born in Kingston. Just how good are Sterling and Bailey? Raheem is really, really good. Working with Pep has developed his game even further. I think he is hitting peak form now and he is still only 24 years old. The only problem is that he wears Manchester blue, not red! Leon is a great player with the world at his feet. He just needs to keep working hard at Leverkusen. They are in the Champions League, in a tough group with Juventus and Atletico Madrid, but hopefully Leon can take the opportunity to shine on the big stage.
As a wearer of Manchester red, what do you think of Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford? Paul Pogba is a world-class player and Marcus Rashford is developing into one. I hope we can build a team around them to get us back to the top. It has been a difficult start for us this season, but hopefully we will find our rhythm and secure Champions League football for next year. I am a big Manchester United fan.
As the fastest man in history, you must appreciate what the rapid Kylian Mbappe did at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia and does for PSG? Mbappe is a great player. He has speed, skill and can finish. He is still young but could play in any team in the world.
You were 11 when Jamaica first appeared at the World Cup. What do you remember about the buzz in Jamaica at the time, and the Reggae Boyz’s France ’98 campaign? Yes, I remember it well. Robbie Earle’s header against Croatia, Theodore Whitmore scoring twice as we beat Japan. Jamaica is a passionate country and we love football. One of my best friends is Ricardo ‘Bibi’ Gardiner, who played in that tournament.
What did you make of Jamaica at the recent FIFA Women’s World Cup? I think the World Cup this year was a valuable learning experience for the Jamaican women’s team. They should hold their heads high as the first Caribbean team to qualify for the Women’s World Cup. Hopefully they can use the experience to do well in the future. I think the move to France will help Bunny Shaw improve even further and hopefully she can be a star for Jamaica in the years to come.
Finally, if you could choose three footballers, past or present, to run a 4x100 metres relay race with you, who would they be? Ronaldo, Mbappe, Bale.