With over 1000 career goals, three World Cup wins and countless individual accolades, Brazilian legend Pele can boast a reputation relatively untarnished after over half a century in the public eye.

Yet his apparent reluctance to relinquish his position as arguably the finest player the world has ever seen is likely to attract ridicule, as he remains stubborn and defiant when questioned about the talents of Lionel Messi.

The exploits of the Barcelona forward this season have seen his star reach its highest peak yet, and the chances are it will continue to rise as his career progresses.

Messi became the highest goalscorer in the history of Barca when he scored his 233rd goal for the Catalan giants last month, while he is on course to break further European records after registering his 61st strike of the campaign on Tuesday evening.

The diminutive Argentine is now regarded by many to be the best player of all time, usurping Pele and compatriot Diego Maradona to lay claim to the unofficial title.

Pele, though, views things differently and does not believe Messi can yet be regarded as a finer player then himself - or even the latest Brazilian sensation, Neymar.

"There's always this Maradona comparison, saying that he's better than Pele. Now some are saying that Messi is better than Pele," he said at an event celebrating the centenary of former club Santos.

"Well, he has to be better than Neymar first, which he isn't yet. He has more experience."

There is no doubting that Neymar is a supremely gifted young footballer, but it is plain for most to see that he is, certainly not yet, comparable to Messi. But Pele does not agree.

To claim that Messi has yet to prove he is better than Neymar is bordering on delusional but, perhaps, comes as no surprise given Pele's allegiances to both Brazil and Santos.

Pele's altruism is unquestioned, and he has rightly always been regarded as one of the game's great gentlemen, but he does seemingly possess the characteristic that some find particularly unappealing - arrogance.

It will be argued by some, perhaps correctly, that Pele has every right to be arrogant given the incomparable achievements of his glittering playing career, but such a facet of one's personality is never particularly becoming.

Perhaps no example of this is any more clear than when the 71-year-old responded to a question regarding Messi in January; almost ridiculing the achievements of the Argentine on the international stage.

"When Messi's scored 1,283 goals like me, when he's won three World Cups, we'll talk about it," Pele told Le Monde. "Football changes. Records are there to be broken, but it will be hard to break mine.

"He's a great player for Barcelona, but when he plays for Argentina, he doesn't have the same success."

He added: "People always ask me: 'When is the new Pele going to be born?' Never. My father and mother have closed the factory."

There is in element of understanding in Pele's reluctance to concede that there may be a player currently plying his trade who possesses a greater talent than he did in his pomp.

If goalscoring feats are enough to decide the supremacy of one player over another, then Pele unquestionably remains far superior to Messi.

Yet there are far more aspects to be considered when deciding upon the greatest of all time, although Messi will never usurp Pele in the eyes of the latter.

One quality that Messi possesses in abundance, but is not always evident when it comes to Pele, is humbleness. Perhaps the master ought to learn from the apprentice from time to time.

Topics:
Flag article