15th November, 2019
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner on the books at Camp Nou has cemented a standing among the all-time greats.
An iconic predecessor at the very top of the game concedes that a fellow South American is the pick of those currently starring on a global stage, with that standing making him the obvious selection when it comes to a dream strike partnership.
Asked by Gazzetta dello Sport to name the one player from 2019 that he would have loved to play alongside, Pele said: “I think Leo Messi.
“He is a skilled player, gives assists, passes, scores, dribbles well.
“If we were in a team together, the opponents would have to worry about two players, not just one!
“Today Messi is the most complete player.”
Pele concedes that a mercurial Argentine is not the only superstar of the present day, but feels there are not as many truly world-class talents around now as there have been in notable eras of the past.
He added: “Once you found two or three in every country with a great football culture.
“Eusebio, [Antonio] Simoes, [Johan] Cruyff, [Franz] Beckenbauer, [Diego] Maradona, Garrincha, Didi. How many did I say? There were so many.
“Today we have two or three in total.
“Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, I would say Neymar, who in Brazil has not yet managed to become a great figure.”
Pele believes his countryman can become the player everyone in Brazil expected him to be, with there a chance that global glory could be secured in 2022.
A three-time World Cup winner said when asked if Neymar can inspire a bid for football’s grandest prize: “I hope so. I hope that at the next World Cup he is in good physical condition.
“People criticise him. Even I did it a few times, but we forget that he is a product of ours, of the nursery of Santos.
“We always want the best for him. I talk about it often with his father. Technically he is an excellent player.”
Another product of the Santos academy to have rediscovered a spark of late is Gabriel Barbosa, with ‘Gabigol’ shining back in his homeland for Flamengo.
He has, however, answered many of those since returning to Brazil, with Pele suggesting that a man who has recorded 64 goals across the last two campaigns could make his mark abroad.
“He made himself known with the Santos shirt, went to Europe, returned,” Pele said.
“He is a good player, I hope he has luck. But we cannot guarantee that he will break through into Europe.”