Pele says Maradona bet­ter than Messi

China Daily (USA) - - SPORTS - By XIN­HUA in Rio de Janeiro

Brazil­ian great Pele has de­liv­ered his ver­dict on one of soc­cer’s en­dur­ing de­bates — and it’s fair to say the 78-year-old hasn’t sat on the fence.

On the ques­tion of who was the bet­ter player, Ar­gen­tine leg­end Diego Maradona or the coun­try’s modern-day idol Lionel Messi, Pele was un­equiv­o­cal in his an­swer.

“As far as I’m con­cerned, Maradona was one of the best play­ers ever,” Pele said in an in­ter­view with Folha de S.Paulo news­pa­per pub­lished on Wed­nes­day.

“If you ask me, ‘Was he bet­ter than Messi?’ Yes, he was. Much bet­ter. (Franz) Beck­en­bauer and (Jo­han) Cruyff were also bet­ter. They were all ex­cel­lent play­ers.”

Pele and Maradona have not al­ways seen eye to eye, but the Brazil­ian claims the pair now en­joy a “per­fect” re­la­tion­ship.

Messi’s great­est-of-all-time cre­den­tials took an­other hit this sum­mer af­ter the 31-year-old failed to light up the World Cup fi­nals, with his wan­ing stand­ing in the game high­lighted by his fifth-place rank­ing in the vot­ing for this year’s Bal­lon d’Or, which was awarded to Croa­t­ian Luka Mo­dric on Mon­day.

Messi is likely to fin­ish his ca­reer without a World Cup ti­tle, while Maradona won with Ar­gentina at the 1986 edi­tion in Mex­ico.

Pele is the only man to win the World Cup three times, hence many re­gard him as the great­est.

In re­cent years he has en­dured a series of health chal­lenges, but said he is now feel­ing 100 per­cent.

“I don’t feel any more pain, but I feel some weak­ness. I had some good legs and look how they are now,” the for­mer San­tos and New York Cos­mos star said.

Pele also said he spoke to com­pa­triot Ney­mar about the Paris Sain­tGer­main for­ward’s pen­chant for div­ing.

“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 back home,” Pele said.

“I was with him in Europe. We talked and I told him: ‘In soc­cer, God gave you a gift, but what you did (div­ing) is what made it dif­fi­cult for you.”

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