Pele believes Neymar has a diving "problem," although the Brazilian legend suggests the Barcelona forward's tendencies have "got much better" since joining the Camp Nou club.
As reported by Alex Labidou of ESPN FC, Pele suggests his young countryman is beginning to learn how the game should be played:
"Yes, yes, he had this problem in Santos also," Pele said. "I think he tries to create fouls and situations that are not there. But now he got much better because in Europe, things are different."
Neymar is currently in the spotlight after Diego Simeone accused the player of diving during La Blaugrana's 1-1 Champions League draw with Atletico Madrid, reported by Sky Sports and via Miles Chambers of Goal.com:
"Diving is his characteristic, like Alexis Sanchez did when I coached him at River Plate," said Simeone.
Neymar scored an important equaliser during the recent encounter. Despite his willingness to hit the deck, the 22-year-old appears to be maturing at Barcelona. Many questioned whether he could instantly adapt to European football—especially after being an individual star back in Brazil—but Neymar has shown a decent work ethic and willingness to put Gerardo Martino's team ahead of personal success.
He has scored 13 goals in La Liga and Europe, making 32 appearances to date, per WhoScored.com. Back in October, Sky Sports' Revista de La Liga panel discussed whether Neymar is a diver, or victim of unfair challenges. Spanish football expert and Bleacher Report UK guest columnist Guillem Balague led the debate:
He's certainly not as strong in the lower part of his body as Kun Aguero or Lionel Messi, so it's easier to bring him in down and he perhaps exaggerates his fall - which makes people think he's diving, but when so many people are saying 'he's a diver and a cheat', you always wonder what's behind it.
Neymar is set to receive even greater attention as he heads toward the World Cup in Brazil. The skilful youngster carries the responsibility of leading the host nation's hopes, pressure that has Pele "worried," per Labidou's report.
There's no doubt Neymar will need to be on his best behaviour during FIFA's showpiece. A dive at the World Cup would harm his reputation more permanently than any attempt to do the same in Spain, especially considering he is the face of the tournament.
Pele's words serve as a warning to Neymar and acknowledgement that he must aim to eradicate diving from his game. The Barca star is an easy target for hard-tackling defenders and rival fans, meaning Neymar would be wise to limit the amount of abuse coming his way with greater honesty in his performances.