When Harry met Pele

Pele: I am still the greatest

October 28, 2011
By Harry Harris, Football Correspondent

Three-times World Cup winner Pele, recognised by many as the greatest footballer of all time, has selected his own personal greatest of all time.

The king of football himself meets Pele
Soccernet / HarryHarrisThe king of football himself (l) meets Pele (r)

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But he doesn't believe that anyone who has played since he closed his phenomenal career has taken his crown as the all-time best. In Pele's eyes, he is still No 1 at 71.

He believes so, and there are not many who think otherwise. Some say Lionel Messi has overtaken Diego Maradona, the view of Ossie Ardiles, who made the point that he feels Messi is the greatest footballer of all time.

But does Pele think someone, some time, now or in the past has taken his place as the No 1? That is the question ESPNsoccernet asked him.

"I think another Pele is a little difficult because my mother and father closed the machine," he replied. "There are always excellent players. Maybe one day there will be some player who will play more games than Pele did, or score more goals than Pele did. But I think that is a little difficult."

Pele declared Messi as the current generation's best player, although he feels Neymar, from his own club Santos, will shortly surpass the Barcelona great.

When Harry met Pele

The great man gave ESPNsoccernet his personal list all-time greats: "Beckenbaurer, Georgie Best, more recently Zico, and Maradona, well, he was a good player, then we have Platini, and of course Di Stefano. Zidane was for a long time the best player in the world. Sometimes you need luck, to stay clear of injuries. There is also a problem comparing players, such as Garrincha and Zico. Today there is no doubt Messi is the best player, maybe Neymar will be."

He also revealed his admiration for Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard but is at a loss as to why the England team have fallen short of its potential and its players have not risen to the ranks of the worlds elite, but instead lie just a tier below.

When asked by Rio Ferdinand about his toughest opponent, Pele replied: "Bobby Moore, and Beckenbauer. Moore because he was always the hardest to play against."

Pele was also asked who would be his dream strike partner, and he went for Neymar ahead of Messi.

• Harry Harris' is Pele's biographer, having written the The Life and Times of Pele. Harry's new book is: 19: The Remarkable Story of United's League Championship Record is available now
• Pele was in London for his 71st birthday and to launch a new range of Pele Sport boots and iconic leisure clothes 'Viva A Revolucao Bonita'