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Pele: Neymar needed to move to PSG
Editorial

Pele: Neymar needed to move to PSG

There have been very few genuine legends in the world of football and surely Pele still stands as the most iconic, not least because of his firm opinions on the state of the game today which include Neymar's controversial move from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain.

Money talks, evidently, and agents rule football now, which is something that Pele isn't entirely comfortable with, even if it's precisely those things that oil the wheels in the modern era.

The 'get rich quick' brigade are anathema to all that he holds dear and yet if a Brazilian player wants to make it big on the world stage, the only way to do so is to the follow the huge wads of cash that are thrown at them by Europe's finest.

Pele was speaking at a Snickers event that saw competition winners from over 20 countries come to Barcelona to play with the legend, with MARCA in English also having an exclusive 1-2-1 chat.

Next month it's 40 years since your last ever game between New York Cosmos and Santos. In your speech that day, you repeated the word 'love' to the crowd three times. Does it sadden you to see that what you love is not beautiful anymore and that players are only playing for the money rather than for the love of the game?

"That message was really meant for the children. At the start of the game I wanted to say thank you very much to everyone and for them to repeat what I felt from them and what we needed to show the children; 'love, love and love.' Unfortunately, today that's never thought about. Players don't move to other clubs for love and away from football, there is corruption, war... a lot of small wars all over the world. I'll repeat it even now... please... 'love, love and love' each other because we all need to think about that."

The goal you scored against Clube Atletico Juventus in 1959, when you were 18, was your favourite goal personally I understand, but there isn't any footage of it anywhere. Can you talk me through it and why it was your favourite?

"Normally when people ask me this question it's about my most important goals, but this one was a beautiful goal because of the movement. There's no doubting this goal against Clube Atletico Juventus was my favourite because I dribbled the ball past quite a few players and then flicked the ball over two or three defenders before scoring... that was the beautiful game. But it was not the most important game in my life because that was in Sweden in the [1958] World Cup.

"Another goal which many people have forgotten about but which was very, very important to me was the penalty kick in the Maracana [Pele's 1000th goal vs Vasco de Gama on November 19, 1969]. Everyone always says 'it's easy to score a penalty kick,' but Maracana was full to capacity with almost 200,000 people. As I stood there, everyone started to shout my name, even the home supporters, and after I'd prepared the ball on the spot, my legs started shaking!! I was an experienced player and it wasn't even close to the beginning of my career but even for a penalty it remains one of my most important goals. The other one [against Clube Atletico Juventus] was very beautiful but not so important."

I interviewed Carlos Alberto just before World Cup 2014 and he told me of his pride that Brazil were hosting the tournament. He also hoped there would be a lasting legacy in the country so can you tell me how healthy Brazilian football is now, both at national and club level?

"That's a very good question because I think about this a lot. There's always talk about football in Brazil when we get close to a World Cup. I think that we will always do well because we always have good players at every level. All over the world you see the best players and they are all Brazilian. Our big problem is how to set up the [national] team.

"For example, when we played in 1970, we had myself at Santos, Tostao at Minas Gerais, Gerson at Flamengo and Rivellino at Sao Paulo - four No.10s! A lot of people in Brazil at the time said that it wasn't going to work but we were the greatest team.

"Don't forget too that Brazil have won five World Cups but the two we played at home - 1950 when I was 10 years old and the last one in 2014 - we lost. Now Tite is back so I hope he has the time to prepare well because we have a good enough team to go to the final [in 2018]."

Next year Vinicius Junior is moving to Real Madrid, Gabriel Jesus is already in Europe and Neymar has recently moved to Paris Saint-Germain. There are many other examples too, so is it generally accepted that young players in Brazil have to move to Europe in order to become world class?

"As I mentioned before we have a lot of good players, and going to Europe is considered normal because they want a better life."

What's your opinion on Neymar's switch from Barcelona to PSG?                                                     

"At the moment the best player in Brazil is Neymar and I think the move for him was very good because there was huge competition with Messi at Barcelona. I think it's a good opportunity for him and he needed to move because now he can really play and show what he's capable of. But it's also very dangerous when you get given that responsibility."

Real Madrid were one of the few teams that tried to sign you and I understand that you've always preferred Barcelona's style of football. Do you harbour any regrets at not having made the move to Europe yourself and potentially denying yourself a Ballon d'Or?

"No, no, no. I didn't play outside of Brazil because I was very, very happy at Santos, I had the best 15-20 years of my life there. I had plenty of other proposals and not just from Real Madrid either, but I was ok where I was. One offer came from Juventus, another from Napoli and even from Germany to play alongside Beckenbauer at Bayern Munich. I wavered a little bit but I was enjoying my best moments at Santos, who, let's not forget, were also a great team."

Four Brazilian's have won the Ballon d'Or; Rivaldo, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Kaka. What does Neymar need to do to win it and can he do so whilst at PSG?

"Of course he can. Neymar has a football at his feet which is all he needs. Coutinho is a player I think we should all look at too because he is excellent for his team. No doubts at the moment though that Neymar is the one."

Does Coutinho need to move to Spain then?

"[laughs] No. You don't necessarily have to change teams all the time to prove you are good. It all depends on taking your opportunities."

Paulinho has just moved to Barcelona but the supporters there are very underwhelmed by his signing. What can he bring to the club?

"I think Barcelona are going through some changes but Paulinho will surprise a lot of people with his strength and character. Before he went to Barcelona, he went to China, but he had a lot of other proposals... Germany... Italy. He went to China because today, unfortunately, and it's important to mention this, businessmen are the ones who decide where their players will go because it's they who sell the player to clubs. Sometimes you're thinking 'oh I wonder why he's playing there [China] rather than perhaps Spain, Argentina... he can't be very good' but it's because he didn't have too much choice. It was different for me because I decided I didn't want to leave Brazil, I just wanted to promote football."

Finally, when you look back over your professional life, what has given you the most pride?

"I have a lot of things to be proud of, thanks to God. First of all to grow as a person and as a player and to be recognised. To travel everywhere, all over the world, and understand different cultures and philosophies on life. Football gave that to me. I would've played on the moon [laughs], so yes, that's the most important to me - to have traveled and got to know so many people."

 

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