Duncan Mackay ©ITG

So the FIFA World Cup, which ended yesterday with France lifting the trophy for the second time with a 4-2 victory over Croatia at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, was officially the greatest in the tournament's 88-year history.

Who says so?

FIFA President Gianni Infantino, that's who.

"It's been the best World Cup in history," he said.

"For a couple of years I thought that would be the case, but now I can say it with conviction."

But how does Infantino know it was the best? 

FIFA President Gianni Infantino, left, declared the World Cup in Russia as the
FIFA President Gianni Infantino, left, declared the World Cup in Russia as the "best in history" - which will no doubt have pleased its country's leader Vladimir Putin ©Getty Images

Infantino was born in March 1970, just a few months before Mexico hosted that year's World Cup, a tournament that to those old enough to remember is still considered the "greatest", mainly because it was the first shown on colour television and broadcast into homes around the world the striking images of a Brazilian team playing a brand of football that defined a generation. Was that tournament any less a successful World Cup than Russia 2018? 

For other football fans of a certain age, it is Spain 1982 and the unlikely resurrection of Paolo Rossi as Italy won the World Cup that stirs the memories. 

For me personally, I will always have great memories of Germany 2006, travelling around to watch Australia's matches and soaking up the intoxicating atmosphere of the Fan Fests on a diet of bratwurst and beer. 

My point is not to degenerate Russia. I was fortunate enough to be in Moscow in the days leading up to the World Cup and it was clear that this was an event everyone in the country was embracing. The organisation was slick, the hospitality overwhelmingly friendly, the football on occasions breathtaking and there was more drama than in a Hollywood blockbuster.

I, personally, will never forget walking around Red Square and suddenly being confronted by the sight of hundreds of joyous singing dancing Peruvian fans in their team's kit with its distinctive red sash simply celebrating the fact their country had qualified for their first FIFA World Cup since 1982. It was a great moment and captured perfectly the incredible and unique role sport occupies in our society.

To football fans of a certain age, the 1970 FIFA World Cup in Mexico will always be the best tournament ever ©Getty Images
To football fans of a certain age, the 1970 FIFA World Cup in Mexico will always be the best tournament ever ©Getty Images

I do not, however, understand this clamour at every major sports event, like the World Cup or Olympic Games, for it to be declared the "best ever". 

Of course, I can understand the prestige for someone like Russian President Vladimir Putin being associated with an event watched by billions of people around the world being called "the greatest" - it confers upon his country a legitimacy it is currently lacking.

But don't run away with the idea it is just an authoritarian leader like Putin who desperately craves the kudos of organising an event better than anyone before them. 

In the build-up to the Closing Ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games in London, the British media speculated for several days whether then International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge would reverse his policy of refusing to anoint each successive edition as the "best ever", as his predecessor Juan Antonio Samaranch had done.

In the end, Rogge stuck to his principles and settled on describing London 2012 as "happy and glorious" - which the media took as code for the "best ever" anyway. 

I have friends who still get misty-eyed when thinking back to London that summer and claim it was the greatest period of their lives. But I will let you into a secret - as long as you promise not to tell Sebastian Coe. London 2012 was great and I have wonderful memories of it, but I actually thought Barcelona 1992 and Sydney 2000 were better.

Barcelona marked my Summer Olympic Games debut and they say you always remember your first time. I was blown away by the sheer scale of the event and how it was a giant melting pot of nationalities and cultures. 

Sydney seemed so exciting being on the other side of the world and after Atlanta 1996, a truly miserable experience if you were a British journalist such was our team's lack of success, it seemed a novelty having so many Team GB medallists on which to report on a daily basis. Does that mean London 2012 was in anyway less better organised than or not as good as Barcelona 1992 or Sydney 2000? No, it was just different with its own unique experiences set in that period of history.

IOC President Jacques Rogge resisted the temptation to declare London 2012 the
IOC President Jacques Rogge resisted the temptation to declare London 2012 the "best" Olympics ever, as predecessor Juan Antonio Samaranch usually did, and instead called it "happy and glorious" ©YouTube

It was the same as last year's International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Championships in London, widely acclaimed as "the best ever". They were certainly the best attended with more than 700,000 spectators watching the 10 days of action. 

For sheer drama and impact, though, they lacked the excitement of the 1991 World Championships in Tokyo when Carl Lewis set a world record in the 100 metres in front of the Emperor of Japan and was then involved in a mind-blowing long jump competition where he had to watch as Mike Powell broke Bob Beamon's 23-year-old world record. 

Last year's World Championships in London were not even as good, in my opinion, as those at Stuttgart in 1993 when Linford Christie won the 100m or Gothenburg 1995, which saw another Briton, Jonathan Edwards, set a world record in the triple jump so good it will soon pass the anniversary of Beamon's mark, which a lot of people believed would stand forever.

Each World Cup, Olympic Games or IAAF World Championships have their own special qualities and characteristics which set them apart from each other. We should embrace each one and enjoy them on their own merits and for the fabulous memories each create, not try to always compare them.

Nick Butler is away and will return on July 30