Lionel Messi and Diego Maradona would be capable of gracing the same side, says Diego Simeone, but adding Cristiano Ronaldo to the pot would be “impossible”.
Debate regarding who can claim to be the greatest player of all time continues to rage, with two Argentine superstars very much in the mix.
Maradona savoured World Cup glory in his heyday, while also inspiring Napoli to two remarkable Serie A title triumphs.
Messi has followed in those illustrious footsteps to claim six Ballons d’Or and countless trophies over the course of his career as a one-club man at Barcelona.
The only rival to get close to him in the modern era is Juventus forward Ronaldo, with the Portuguese having redefined the art of goalscoring.
Such talent would be expected to thrive in any team, alongside any team-mate, but Simeone claims shoehorning three icons into one XI would not work as none of them would want to run.
The former Argentine international, who is now manager of La Liga giants Atletico Madrid, told the AFA when asked for his opinion on Messi and Maradona: "They are different. One is a goal-scoring machine. I have suffered daily in recent years [at the hands of Messi].
"The other [Maradona] was Argentine football represented in a person. Today it would seem that Messi, more mature, is beginning to externalise. They could play together."
Pressed on whether Ronaldo could complete a fearsome attacking trident, Simeone said: "Adding Cristiano would be more complicated. We would start to have holes.
"I always say that if one [player] does not run, fine. If two do not run, difficult. If three do not run, impossible."
That philosophy has served Simeone well across his coaching career, with the 50-year-old moulding Atletico teams in his own image.
The Rojiblancos are hard-working and difficult to break down, with collective strength prioritised over individual excellence.
That approach has not always received the recognition it deserves, with a thrilling Champions League victory over Liverpool prior to the coronavirus lockdown considered to be another example of that.
Simeone said, in response to accusations of Atletico getting lucky at Anfield: "Football is like boxing because you have to know when it is time to attack. At Atletico, we know the virtues we have as a team.
"The example is when we played against Liverpool, a tremendous team, we knew that we could hurt him. When they talk about how we were lucky, I think of a team that lost 2-0 and scored three goals.
"That is not luck. The games must be valued as a whole. Against Liverpool, we knew that [Alvaro] Morata was injured, and that he was going to relapse. We lost 1-0, and the tension went up.
"I thought: 'How can I put Morata there, extend, and get injured again; I commit suicide; I am going to put up with it until the end.' And it went well: he was injured, but he scored."