Liverpool legend Barnes Believes Messi, Ronaldo No Match For “Jay Jay”

Liverpool legend Barnes Believes Messi, Ronaldo No Match For “Jay Jay”

Former Liverpool man John Barnes has praised ex-Nigeria national football team player Austin Okocha as being better on the ball than Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

So good, they named him twice, “Jay Jay” Okocha remains one of Nigeria's best football exports. He had a rich career playing in Turkey, France, England, Germany and Qatar before retiring from the game in 2008.

He did not win many titles or individual accolades but is remembered fondly for his ability on the ball, which is only comparable to a handful of players, past and present.

The 49-year-old now spends time running his many businesses alongside brand ambassadorship and television punditry duty for various broadcasters. This has kept him in the spotlight, making him even more recognisable than many current Super Eagles players.

Barnes remembered Okocha when talking about the most skilful players he saw. He picked former Nigeria, aka Super Eagles, legend, ignoring UEFA Champions League (UCL) legends Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, who have ruled the football world with their achievements and skills.

“When you talk about two of the most naturally gifted skilful players, not talking about playing in a team as he can, but when you talk about individuals, the most skilful player, they are two, Ronaldinho and JJ Okocha,” Barnes said.

“[They are] naturally the most skilful players because the things he does (referring to Okocha) on a football pitch you do on the playing ground, or in training, and you are not supposed to do in matches. He does it better than Messi, Ronaldo, and everyone in terms of pure skill.”

Okocha's type of flair has been phased out of football, which has become more mechanical. Teams are result-driven, which is great for finances but not so much for the entertainment bit of the game.

One of the many criticisms the former midfield maestro received is his poor output. A player like him in today's game would suffer for minutes because when Okocha takes to the pitch, he tends to have fun playing the sport while trying to win. This caused him to take roundabout methods rather than whipping in a direct cross or a killer through the ball, like Bruno Fernandes or Kevin De Bruyne.

However, Okocha believes that he will be worth as much as £150 million if he played in this era.

He was talking about Enzo Fernandez, the 2022 FIFA World Cup winner. The midfielder joined Chelsea after helping Argentina clinch the FIFA World Cup in Qatar but has, so far, failed to replicate the same form since signing for a nine-figure fee in January 2023.

“Maybe one billion euros should have been paid for me,” he is quoted as saying. “They (Chelsea) paid £106m for their defensive midfielder. To a player from Portugal. I would have cost around €150m. My assists, dribbles… World football started to pay a lot of money. Such would be the numbers of players of this quality.”

Okocha, however, would be in the trenches like Yannick Bolasie and Allan Saint-Maximin. Both are flair players with less output, who fans always remember, but clubs tend to do away with.

The problem would be the modern fixation on results in football, not his ability. Okocha would be a great addition to any team, but he wouldn't hold a place down for long.

This article was most recently revised and updated 1 year ago

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