Sports desk: Pele believes Neymar plays with a style more similar to Lionel Messi than Cristiano Ronaldo, the football legend told ESPN Brasil.
Neymar, who finished third in the voting for the Ballon d’Or behind Ronaldo and Messi in both 2015 and 2017, has been compared to both players, particularly in his native Brazil, where he is on pace to break Pele’s goalscoring record with the national team.
But Pele said Neymar’s playmaking ability is more like Messi, while Ronaldo’s finishing reminds him of his former Brazil teammates Vava and Coutinho, with whom he won the 1962 World Cup.
“Neymar has been compared with Cristiano Ronaldo. So I’ve said several times, told friends, in Europe, given interviews… Cristiano Ronaldo is an excellent player, he could be like our Vava, our Coutinho, the finisher,” Pele told ESPN.”Neymar is really more of a Messi-style, one who constructs the play, but scores the goal also.”
Although he’s been sidelined by a foot injury, Neymar is expected to recover in time for this summer’s World Cup.
His supporting cast is likely to feature a number of key players participating in their first World Cup, but Pele called for unconditional support of coach Tite no matter how the Selecao do in Russia.
Pele also took the opportunity to thank the friends he made playing in his playing days, calling his former teammates at Santos his “brothers,” and also recognised the many friends he made as the club toured around the world.
“Thank God I made a lot of friends with people from many countries because Santos was travelling a lot,” he said. “Every year we went to Europe, Africa, Asia. It’s a club that, and I say it full of pride, promoted Brazil all over the world. And opened the doors of the world for me too.”