Pele has insisted that not even Neymar can challenge his status as Brazil’s greatest footballer.
A three-time FIFA World Cup winner and the scorer of more than 1,000 goals in a glittering career, the former Santos and New York Cosmos striker has already seen off plenty of challengers to his mantle since retiring.
They have included Ronaldo, who scored 62 international goals, and Romario, who earlier this month backed Neymar to surpass Pele’s tally of 77 for Brazil.
But when asked if Neymar could replace him as Brazilian football’s favourite son, Pele said: “I think not.
“I think to be the new king, the new Pele, is impossible. Because my mother and my father closed the machine. I think he’s a good player, an excellent young player and he’s going to be a big star, no doubt.”
Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have also proven worthy challengers to the all-time greats in recent years but Pele believes he could have been a force in the modern game.
“If you ask, would Beethoven be important now? Of course,” he said.
“If I was in this moment and prepared to play in this moment. The thing people forget is I was given a gift to play football, this is something no-one can judge.”
Appearing in Australia for a series of speaking engagements, Pele – in his capacity as the unofficial ambassador of Brazilian football – admitted his disappointment at Brazil’s 7-1 thrashing at the hands of Germany last summer.
“I didn’t think – I cried,” he said.
“It’s unfortunate that the two World Cups played in Brazil, in 1950 when I was nine years old, we lost. And now we lost again. This is something no one can explain.”
The Brazilian Football Confederation’s response to the debacle was to hand Dunga, who coached theSelecao at the 2010 World Cup, a return to the national team hot seat following Luiz Felipe Scolari’s departure.
“I think with Dunga… [he] has a different style to Felipe, more defensive, but I believe in Dunga,” Pele said. “He could make a good national team.”
Quizzed on whether or not Brazil can win a sixth World Cup in Russia in 2018, Pele added: “I hope so.”