Pelé celebrates his 80th birthday this Friday. If Maradona has often said bad things about the Brazilian legend, this is not the case of Platini, Cruyff or Neymar.
Diego Maradona, electric rivalry
While he was putting an end to his playing career, Pelé saw the birth of a kid not yet of age in Argentina, named Diego Maradona. Both are contenders for the title of greatest footballer in history. “We are friends, we joke all the time”, defused the Brazilian for Goal in 2017. Maradona, him, did not stop throwing pikes at Pelé, making fun of his age (“His place is in a museum”) and his opinion that Neymar had nothing to envy Messi. He also recalls that in 2000, if Pelé was elected player of the twentieth century by Fifa, it was he who had been acclaimed by Internet users. “Pelé was second even in Brazil, where Ayrton Senna was voted the best athlete of all time. The price that Fifa gave to Pelé is not worth a nail, ”Maradona had launched in the columns of the Gazzetta dello Sport.
Pelé’s legendary career
Johan Cruyff and logic
Crowned with 3 Ballons d’Or (1971, 1973, 1974), it is an understatement to say that Johan Cruyff is a football legend. But the Dutch midfielder, a fan of total football and who died in 2016 at the age of 68, recognized the greatness of Pelé, “the only footballer who exceeded the borders of logic” he observed on the Fifa website.
Michel Platini compares him to God
Another triple Ballon d’Or (1983, 1984, 1985). Number 10 at heart, Michel Platini could only idolize the former Brazilian glory. “Pelé is no longer a footballer, it’s a myth, he said a few years ago on video. When we play like Pelé, we play like God. “
Zico did not like to be called “the white Pelé”
Less than a year after the third World Cup won by Pelé in 1970, a compatriot named Zico, nicknamed “the white Pelé” made his professional debut. “It was in France that we started with this nickname, it was the French who made me bear this responsibility, recalled Zico (72 caps, 52 goals) in an interview with AFP in 2014. I never liked it. It seems like there had to be a new Pelé in Brazilian football, and each one is unique. I am proud that people remember me and compare me to Pelé, because he is the best player in football history. ”
Tostão: “all the qualities of an attacker”
It’s simple: for Eduardo Gonçalves de Andrade, says Tostão, comparisons with other players “are irrelevant”. Pelé, with whom he won the 1970 World Cup, “had all the qualities of an attacker”, he insists for Fifa. “Maradona was a genius, but physically he was not at Pele’s level. Messi is a genius, but he doesn’t have Pelé’s head game, he’s not as skillful with both feet. Cristiano Ronaldo is an exceptional player, but he doesn’t have Pelé’s talent and he doesn’t have his innate passing sense. ” What if we merge the qualities of Messi and Ronaldo? “We get a player who could perhaps bear the comparison with Pelé”, laughs Tostão.
Neymar talks about an idol
Regularly criticized but also encouraged by Pelé, Neymar can only bow to the greatness of the “King”. “There is no war to be the top scorer for the Brazilian team, tempered the PSG player in 2018, who had just reached 54 goals in the selection. These are just numbers. I respect each of them, be it Romario, Zico, Ronaldo or Pelé. I don’t want to be better than them, and besides, I won’t be. They are my idols, they were there before me. ” On October 13 in Peru (4-2), Neymar scored his 64th goal with Brazil. Pelé’s record is just 13 units away.
Kylian Mbappé and the daydream of his meeting with Pelé
In April 2019, Pelé, 78, met Kylian Mbappé, 20. The French world champion was quickly compared to the Brazilian after his performances at the 2018 World Cup, at a very young age like Pelé. “I did not stop touching it to see if it was real”, Mbappé smiled, amazed at “the icon, the absolute legend”. Pelé, he had panicked the football planet three months earlier, arguing that Mbappé could “become the new Pelé”. “A lot of people think I said that as a joke, but no, it’s not a joke,” he then certified. To follow in his footsteps, Mbappé could, for example, win two other World Cups. We wouldn’t blame him.