Messi greatest in last 10 years: Pele

Football legend Pele today anointed Argentine forward Lionel Messi as the "best in the last 10 years", but also spoke highly of his fellow Brazilian Neymar and Portugal’s Ronaldo.

Legendary soccer player Pele during a program of Atletico de Kolkata team in Kolkata on Monday.   -  PTI

Football legend Pele today anointed Argentine forward Lionel Messi as the “best in the last 10 years”, but also spoke highly of his fellow Brazilian Neymar and Portugal’s Ronaldo.

“It’s very difficult to make a comparison of players of different generations. But in last 10 years Messi was the best. Ronaldo plays forward and tries to score while Messi plays with a different style. In my team I would love to have both... We have Neymar who also has a good future,” the only footballer to have won three World Cups said in his first news conference during his one-week sojourn in India.

The 74-year-old agreed the sport has become highly competitive, but Pele said he would have been successful had he played in this generation.

“No doubt football today is tougher than before but when God gifts you the ability to play football it’s the same in any generation. Football is all about skill. I’m sure Beto would have been equally successful had he played in this era.”

Refusing to answer queries on FIFA, which is engulfed in crisis post the Sepp Blatter controversy, Pele however said he has “no intention to contest for the post of president”.

Post-World Cup, where they were thrashed 7-1 by Germany, the once heavyweights Brazil may not be the same force to reckon with and Pele blames it on the team atmosphere.

“We have not lost passion for football. We have the best players for Brazil but unfortunately we don’t have time to prepare the team.

“Individual players are important but to have a good team you need to play together as a team. That’s the big problem.

“In my time the players used to belong to the clubs but today players are managed by their agents.”

It sounded a bit surprising but Pele never named his Argentine rival Diego Maradona and rather picked English World Cup winner Bobby Moore when talking about contemporaries.

“I had the opportunity to play with a lot of excellent players like Bobby Moore but I believe in the last 10 years Messi has been the best.”

Asked about the greatest Brazilian player he’s seen, Pele said: “It’s not fair to name just one. I played with a lot of excellent players when I started to play at an age of 17.

Everybody said Pele was fantastic. There was Didi (Waldyr Pereira), Vava (Edvaldo Jizo Neto), Garrincha... It’s difficult to say who was the best player.”

On the best coach, Pele named his 1970 World Cup winning Mario Jorge Lobo Zagallo, who also won as a player in 1958 and 1962.

Pele is here on a three-day visit where a host of programmes are lined up. He will fly to the national capital to be the chief guest in the Subroto Cup final.

  Dugout videos