Pele: Lionel Messi's Most Famous Hater

Xoel Cardenas@@XoelCardenasContributor IIIApril 12, 2012

Just when you thought Pelé—perhaps the greatest footballer of all time—would not say anything to minimize FC Barcelona’s Lionel Messi again, he does.

Will this ever end?

At a recent press conference to celebrate Santos’ centenary celebrations, the Brazilian took another shot at Messi by stating this:

“Now everyone is talking about Messi, he is a star. But for Messi to be the best ever, he must first become better than Neymar.”

OK, someone tell me when did Neymar overtake Messi as the best player on the planet? I must have missed it. Perhaps I was watching too many replays of Messi’s 61 goals in all competitions this year to have noticed Neymar surpass Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo and finally Lionel Messi to become the best in the world.

In case you haven’t noticed, I’m being sarcastic.

Pelé also stated that he does not hold a grudge with the other man who is considered by many to be the greatest of all time, Diego Maradona.

“You (the media) are always saying that I am Maradona’s rival, but it is not true. I was never his rival, and he was a great attacking midfielder.”

Where do I start with all of this?

I can’t believe I have to state the obvious, but anyone that follows football will half a brain will tell you Lionel Messi is the best player in the world. For some, he’s already the greatest of all time.

Pelé and Neymar
Pelé and Neymar

I understand Pelé wants to praise and play kingmaker to Neymar. Pelé wants a Brazilian as the best player in the world, but this is now reaching the point where Pelé is losing football fans’ respect with his ridiculous and prideful comments. Not to mention always speaking in the third person.

Pelé will always be respected for the footballer that he was, but he is losing respect for unfairly disrespecting and minimizing Lionel Messi.

This Brazil vs. Argentina football rival has gone on for decades and will continue. I surely don’t want the bad blood to go away. Who doesn’t love a good international football rivalry—like England vs. Germany, Italy vs. France or Netherlands vs. Germany—just to name a few?

But the thing that bothers me and many football fans is that regardless of team or nationality, if a player of any sport is the obvious best, he or she needs to be acknowledged and respected as the best at his or her game. There’s nothing wrong with that.

Why can’t Pelé put national pride aside and acknowledge Messi as the best in the game right now?

Some of you may say that Neymar being better than Messi is what Pelé truly believes. Stop it! He’s in denial. Unless Pelé is blind—which I’m pretty sure he’s not because he did say Messi is a star, so he’s had to have seen him play—how can he believe Messi is not as good as Neymar?

Messi and Neymar
Messi and Neymar

Nothing against Neymar; he’s an incredible player. But with everything that Leo does on the pitch—all the records he has broken, all the titles he’s helped Barcelona win; all at the age of 24—Lionel Messi is obviously the best player in the world. How can Pelé not see that?

Perhaps Pelé’s ego and national pride blinds him.

Pelé’s obsession with Messi goes back many years now. There have been numerous times when Pelé has stated not-so-positive comments about Messi. There was the time Pelé was asked if he thinks Messi will end up being the greatest of all time, Pelé said, "When Messi's scored 1,283 goals like me, when he's won three World Cups, we'll talk about it."

Another time, Pelé said that Argentina needs to decide who the best player is from their own country (Maradona or Messi) before there can be a debate of who is the greatest ever. Perhaps Pelé was trying to poke fun at Argentines on how they brag about Messi and Maradona being so great. But to Pelé’s dismay, I actually see this as a compliment to Argentina because Argentina has produced two players that are easily in the top five greatest of all-time list.

To Pelé’s credit, one thing that he is correct on is that Messi needs to perform big with the Argentine national team.

Messi doesn’t need to win three World Cups, but he does need to lead his country to big wins in big games; perhaps at minimum one World Cup.

Messi still needs to find success with the national team.
Messi still needs to find success with the national team.

Wouldn’t it be something if Messi were able to lead Argentina to a World Cup title in 2014? To win the cup in Brazil—the host of the tournament, Pelé’s homeland and Argentina’s biggest international rival—would be an incredible storybook ending to the Messi vs. Pelé talk and put an end to the “Who’s the greatest of all time?” question!

Lionel Messi has not nor will not respond to Pelé’s statements. It’s not in him to do that, but most importantly, Messi is just letting his play do all the talking.

And not just to silence Pelé; to silence all his critics.

Diego Maradona defends Messi and also fires back at Pelé. Diego is pretty much doing the same “my country’s player is better than your country’s player” rival talk that Pelé is doing.

But Maradona does have the most important thing going for his argument; Messi is in fact the best player in the world.

Pelé recently opened a twitter account (@Pele). Let’s hope he doesn’t post ridiculous tweets about Messi.  

Pelé should ask Neymar who the best in the world is.

“I’ve always said Lionel Messi is the best player in the world.”—Neymar

Perhaps Pelé needs to put ego and national pride to the side, watch and listen to what his countryman is saying about the little Argentine.

Argentina vs. Brazil
Argentina vs. Brazil

I’m sad to see that Pelé continues to bicker and lowers himself to making obviously dumb comments. If he truly believes Neymar is the best player in the world,—again, nothing against Neymar—perhaps Pelé doesn’t watch La Liga, UEFA Champions League or the sports segment on the news. Perhaps the news in Brazil doesn’t cover Messi as much as Neymar. I’ll guess I can buy that.

But all joking and sarcasm aside, Pelé knows deep down Lionel Andres Messi is the best player on the planet and could end up becoming the greatest of all time. It just hurts him so much that someone has come along that has captivated the sports world—not just the football world—and is respected, praised and beloved by most.

FYI: Maradona was not liked by some and many did not respect him as well (see “Hand of God” and so forth on the pitch, drug use and big mouth off the pitch).

Messi may not be liked by some, but unlike Maradona, Messi is universally respected.

Some have said that Pelé is jealous of Messi. I think Pelé is jealous of Messi’s popularity to an extent; not of Messi’s game. Messi has been and is more embraced by the media and fans around the world more than Pelé was.  

Messi is more global and has had a more global impact on the game due to the media and today’s technology of instant highlights, live broadcasts from around the world and advertisements. This is not Pelé’s fault. Obviously the media and technology that is around today was not around during Pelé’s days as a footballer, thus Pelé should not be jealous of Messi’s popularity.

If Pelé is worried that people will forget the name Pelé if/when Lionel Messi becomes the greatest player of all time, he needs not to worry. Pelé is one of the greatest players of all time, captivated the football world and is perhaps the greatest winner in the game’s history. No one will ever win three World Cups.

Messi and Pelé
Messi and Pelé

Pelé, your name will never be forgotten if Messi becomes the greatest. Please stop minimizing Messi’s God-given talents, instead, celebrate his play like the rest of us. I say this not because joc soc Clué (I am a Culé), but I say this as a fan of the beautiful game.

One thing that Messi can teach you, Pelé, is to always stay classy.

Visca el Barça!    

Xoel, The Voice of FC Barcelona on Bleacher Report!

Look out for my article “10 Biggest Collapses in La Liga History” coming soon.

Follow me on Twitter: @XoelCardenas

Don’t forget to check out my other columns:

The Imminent Collapse of Real Madrid?

FC Barcelona: 5 Reasons the Odds Are Looking Good for Them to Win the CL Title

New Cristiano Ronaldo Coming to FC Barcelona?


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