Snooker icon Ronnie O’Sullivan has played down fans heralding his ability after he reached another World Championship quarter-final – and insisted he cannot be compared to English football legend and ‘genius’ Paul Gascoigne.
The 46-year-old’s name is often put forward when people are considering the best British sportspeople in history due to his six world snooker titles. However, the World No 1 believes he is not even in the same league as his friend Gascoigne.
Gascoigne – known as ‘Gazza’ – spectacularly thrilled fans thanks to his performances for England, Newcastle, Tottenham and Rangers during a career that spanned two decades from 1984 to 2004. The 54-year-old recently met O’Sullivan at a health retreat in Hertfordshire, and the duo messaged one another ahead of the World Championships at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield.
“I was only with him two months ago,” said O’Sullivan, as quoted by the Sun . “We were at Champneys. We didn’t share a spa together. It’s quite a big place. It’s 60 acres there. It wasn’t just me and Gazza huddling up on the sofa. We did have some chats. Exchanged text messages. He is good.”
O’Sullivan went on to lament the lack of a guiding figure in Gascoigne’s life – like a ‘Sir Alex Ferguson or Jurgen Klopp’ – as his issues with addiction derailed took its toll. Regardless, the snooker legend believes the former England international is in a certain bracket of sporting superstars.
“I love Gazza. I just wish he could have had a Sir Alex Ferguson or Jurgen Klopp in his corner and maybe had someone around him to guide him,” O’Sullivan added. “It would have been a hard task. He’s just a maverick. He’s a different talent to me. I don’t call myself a genius. He’s a genius.
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“George Best was a genius. Alex Higgins was a genius. I don’t put myself in that bracket. Gazza is our greatest British footballer of all time. He could have played for Brazil.
“Gazza reminds me of Diego Maradona. He has a big heart and could play in an absolute useless team but still make them win the league. Look, I love Lionel Messi. He is my favourite. But when we talk about leaders, Gazza was a leader. He led from the front. You have to admire that.”
O’Sullivan, who acknowledged he needed ‘guidance’ early in his career, is the biggest name in snooker as he eyes a record-equalling seventh world title. A film crew are reportedly following him around in Sheffield, hoping to capture what could be a historic moment ahead of the future documentary.
The World No 1 is set to face qualifier Stephen Maguire in a record 20th quarter-final at world level on Tuesday.