Both players are legends of the game when it comes to numbers, but it turns out Brazilian great Pele is not as big a fan of Argentina’s Lionel Messi. In a recent interview with Brazillian newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo, the former World Cup winner called the Barcelona forward a one-dimensional footballer who relied too much on his left foot.
The extreme response was prompted by a question of comparison, it appears.
“How can you make a comparison between a guy who heads the ball well, shoots with the left, shoots with the right and another who only shoots with one leg, only has one skill and doesn’t head the ball well? How can you compare? To compare with Pele, it has to be someone who shoots well with the left, shoots well with the right, and scores headers,” he was quoted as saying by ESPN.
The 78-year-old went on to say that Messi is neither the best player for his country Argentina nor for his club Barcelona.
“As far as I’m concerned, Maradona was one of the best players ever. If you ask me: ‘Was he better than Messi?’ Yes, he was. Much better. [Franz] Beckenbauer, [Johan] Cruyff are also better. They’re also excellent players,” he said.
But Messi should feel singled out, as Pele didn’t spare his countryman Neymar from criticism either, not for his football skills, but for his theatre ones.
“It is difficult to defend Neymar for all the things he does outside of football… I was with him twice in Europe. We talked and I told him: ‘In football, God gave you a gift, but what you did is what made it difficult’,” Pele is quoted as saying.
But the three-time Fifa World Cup winner also said that the Brazilian was much better player than his PSG teammate and French World champion Kylian Mbappe.