Argentina fans cheer with pictures of Argentina's forward Lionel Messi and Argentinian football legend Diego Maradona (right) ahead of a friendly football match between Spain and Argentina at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium in Madrid on March 27, 2018. (GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)
RIO DE JANEIRO - Argentine legend Diego Maradona was a better footballer than the country's modern-day idol Lionel Messi, according to Pele.
Barcelona forward Messi - a five-time winner of the Ballon d'Or, awarded to the world's best player - is not even rated in the top three of football's greatest players by the 78-year-old Brazilian.
"As far as I'm concerned, Maradona was one of the best players ever," Pele said in an interview with the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper. "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."
In this handout photo provided by Prensa Club Dorados de Sinaloa, Argentine soccer legend Diego Maradona walks through the airport in Culiacan, Mexico, Sept 8, 2018. (PRENSA CLUB DORADOS DE SINALOA VIA AP)
Pele and Maradona have not always seen eye to eye, but Pele said the pair now enjoy a "perfect" relationship.
The only man to win the World Cup three times, Pele is widely regarded as the best footballer of all time.
In recent years he has suffered a series of health problems, 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 player said.
FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi, right, kicks the ball during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between FC Barcelona and Villarreal at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Dec 2, 2018. (MANU FERNANDEZ / AP PHOTO)
Pele also revealed that he spoke to compatriot Neymar about the Paris Saint-Germain forward's penchant going to ground when tackled.
"It's difficult to defend Neymar for all the things he does beyond playing football. 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 said.
"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."
Copyright 1995 - 2019. All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily. Without written authorization from China Daily, such content shall not be republished or used in any form.
HONG KONG NEWS