This is pretty much why I would say Zidane. The longevity seems less tied to steroids, whereas with R9 it's a question mark.I know that you meant it in that way Firdy, but even leaving aside the Peles, Diegos or Messis of this world, when you put Zizou in the conversation with a Di Setfano, Johan or even Platini whose impact was beyond imaginable, I feel it's quite a bit over the top. He certainly was greater for France than his clubs, even thought he was fantastic for them but the thing here is in an all time impact whatever metric we can use, he'll fall short.
The real problem behind R9 (and lots of players from that period) was the abuse of anabolics, while looking like they didn't fully grasp or care what consequences would carry in the long term, drugs were used, are used (the build of nowadays players and the way that the major ones are recovered in short periods to the very least implies at some moment some grey area), will be used, in those days the abusive infiltrations and anabolics were the order of the day and in the case of R9 some moron decided that they didn't want the skinny Cruzeiro kiddo.
Also like Zico said, even in his more "big" and powerfull days (sometimes I wish he just kept his Cruzeiro physique, less size than his Euro days, but enough talent and power to be exceptional and unique anyway): he had the tendecy of moving forward the ball in long strides when running with it, it wasn't precisly a Zico (the player ) tight spaces with lots of dinamic and control, he had great control and great pisadas like we say down here, specially for a striker, such a silky fast giant, was a fascinating and frighting thing to watch and admire...but when for all the reasons we know he started to loose even slightly his power, he just couldn't impose as he did in the past.
Even RG without major injuries and all the skills in the world, neither had that tight really close control with pace/speed and lots of people can't just see beyond an elastico, stepover or such and just can't see that a certain player stopped and threw one of those lots of times because if not he would have lost control or just can get away from his marker, other times is just fun stuff, an intelligent pause, or a brilliant pour le gallerie, but the very very very upper echelon start their moves and the goal is at the other end no matter space, rivales, if its them or putting the ball for someone to score...evrything at a pace and vision that it's just beyond belief, allways in full control. This is sthg that even pro players many times seem to not get.
BTW even as awuful as R9 injuries were, there was such a desire from all of us for him to recover and watch him in full form and the inclination of everyone loving the "what ifs.." that we tend to go a bit over the top. Maradona for instance it's never mentioned in such a fashion, but his injury in Barcelona: ankle broken and ligaments in tatters, was of the sort of a high probablity to not even walk in a proper way again, less play pro football, more in that era. The same with Pele, the way Edson was smashed and treated and his injuries could have ended his carreer too. We all know how these two came back from them, sometimes even as a better all around player. So I do not indulge that vision to the degree sometimes is spoken, even if it has lots of truth in it and he was obviosuly dammaged, there is also a clear and very romantic element when people talk about them.