Pele says Maradona is better than Lionel Messi, criticizes Neymar

Brazilian soccer icon Edson Arantes do Nascimento, better known as Pele. Photograph:( Agencia EFE )

Agencia EFE São Paulo, Brazil Dec 06, 2018, 12.45 PM (IST)

Brazilian soccer icon Edson Arantes do Nascimento, better known as Pele, said in an interview that Argentina's Diego Maradona was better on the pitch than his own countryman Lionel Messi and criticized Neymar.

"It's difficult to defend Neymar for all the things he does outside of soccer. I talked with him, I told him that in soccer, he's got it. He had bad luck because the team didn't win the World Cup and he was branded," Pele told the daily Folha de Sao Paulo.

"I was with him twice in Europe. We talked and I told him: 'In soccer, God gave you a gift, but what you did is what made it difficult,'" Pele added.

The Brazilian star, however, said that Neymar is a "better player" than Frenchman Kylian Mbappe, his colleague on Paris Saint-Germain and who this year won the World Cup in Russia with the French national team.

"I think that Neymar is a better player than he is, but in Europe everyone talks more about Mbappe," he said.

In the interview, Pele ranked Barcelona star Lionel Messi beneath Maradona, with whom he said he has a "perfect" relationship after some misunderstandings that the pair dealt with in recent years.

"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. Beckenbauer, Cruyff are also better. They're also excellent players," he emphasized.

The 78-year-old soccer legend also spoke about his own health, saying that he is "100 percent" after undergoing three surgeries in recent years.

"I don't feel any more pain, but I feel some weakness. I had some good legs and look how they are now," said Pele - who played for Brazil when they won the World Cup in 1958, 1962 and 1970 - with some irony.

Story highlights

Pele ranked Barcelona star Lionel Messi beneath Maradona, with whom he said he has a "perfect" relationship after some misunderstandings that the pair dealt with in recent years.