When it comes to legends of the Brazilian game there are few who can rival the great Pele. The Brazilian is still considered one of the greatest players in football history and is not only a legend for the national team but also for Santos; the club where he played for 21 years.
So when O Rei do Futebol makes a statement about a player widely tipped to be the nearest thing to his successor since Ronaldo, who also happens to be a Santos player, it is taken very seriously.
This week however the 72-year-old has changed tact on the subject of Neymar; a player he once touted as a future world beater; claiming he was not good enough for the international team, was in need of a move abroad and was more concerned with his haircut than his performances.
Here is what he said:
"For the national team, he's just an ordinary player. He's got a huge responsibility and his greatest concern is to change his style, change his haircut. Every match we have outside the country, he doesn't perform well. Everyone thinks he's supposed to be the answer to every problem we have in the national team [but] Neymar is not ready for that much weight, he can't do it."
"He doesn't play in a foreign country, and European football is very different from what we play here in South America. He wants to get the ball, dribble, use his skills [but] he needs to leave the ball a little, play for the team. He's very inexperienced internationally. Barcelona would be the ideal place for him [but] I don't think he will leave because Santos still need him."
Some may say it is hypocritical of Pele, a man who never played football in Europe himself, to suggest Neymar needs to move abroad to improve his game but these are different times. Indeed Neymar’s agent has hit back claiming that if Pele was to play today he would be inferior to Neymar.
However for all the improvement that the Brazilian league has undergone in recent years back when Pele was Neymar’s age of 21 he was leading his country to glory at the 1962 World Cup in a Brazilian team based entirely in their domestic league.
So Pele has a point. Neymar may have a good record for the national team but many of those goals come against lowly opposition. It is a sad fact that one continent has monopolised the game so much but for Neymar to truly improve and prove himself ready to lead Brazil to glory he will have to take the plunge that Pele never did; and switch to Europe.
Or as Pele says he can stay in Brazil; where his biggest worry will be how to do his hair in the morning.
Do you think Pele is right on the subject of Neymar?
image: © Ronnie Macdonald