Former Brazil forward Pele has stated that Diego Maradona was a “much better player” than Lionel Messi — adding that Barcelona No. 10 “only shoots with one leg, only has one skill and doesn’t head the ball well.”
No one has won the Ballon d’Or on more occasions than Messi, who has five, but only finished fifth in the voting for the same honour in 2018 — and was voted as ESPN FC’s best forward.
But Pele said he rates the 1986 World Cup winner — as well as two other former players — higher than Messi.
“As far as I’m concerned, Maradona was one of the best players ever,” Pele, a three-time World Cup winner with Brazil, said to Folha de Sao Paulo. “If you ask me:
‘Was he better than Messi?’ Yes, he was. Much better. Is there such a thing as peaking too early? Given all that Kylian Mbappe, just 19, has accomplished, we might soon find out.
“[Franz] Beckenbauer, [Johan] Cruyff are also better. They’re also excellent players.”
Pele, meanwhile, said no one should try to compare him with Messi, suggesting their skill set was completely different.
“How can you make a comparison between a guy who heads the ball well, shoots with the left, shoots with the right and another who only shoots with one leg, only has one skill and doesn’t head the ball well?” the 78-year-old said. “How can you compare?
“To compare with Pele, it has to be someone who shoots well with the left, shoots well with the right, and scores headers.”
Pele also said fellow Brazilian Neymar is a “better player” than France’s World Cup winner, Kylian Mbappe.
Mbappe, Neymar’s teammate at Paris Saint-Germain, finished fourth in the Ballon d’Or voting and took home the best young player award.