The former Brazil and Santos wing wizard has hailed the Argentina international but claims he is no match for the Selecao’s most famous ever player and his former team-mate
Brazil and Santos legend Pepe believes his former team-mate Pele was a superior player to Barcelona star Lionel Messi.The Argentine has dominated the news this week following his costly penalty miss in the final of the Copa America, which was followed by his decision to retire from international football.
This latest failure to lead his country to silverware has reignited the debate over whether Messi can ever be considered the greatest player of all time given his relative struggles for Argentina.
Pepe is regarded as one of Brazil’s greats, being part of his country’s World Cup successes in 1958 and 1962 and also a key member of the all-conquering Santos side of the 1960s.
And the former winger has no doubts that his former team-mate for club and country, Pele, remains the greatest of them all.
“Messi is an exceptional player. It’s a joy turning on the television to see this lad playing, but I still believe Pele is at the very top,” Pepe told Goal.
“He had an advantage over Messi because of his physique; he scored from a lot of headers and and on plays that demanded much more strength.
“As great as Messi’s individual qualities are, he couldn’t do things Pele could. At Santos, sometimes when we had a hard time scoring we just began crossing balls into the box, and Pele just soared above everybody else to score with a powerful header.
“You can’t do that with Messi, but he is a brilliant player. I think he has surpassed the likes of Alfredo Di Stefano and others… but not Pele!”
A 17-year-old Pele took the 1958 World Cup by storm, scoring six goals – including two in the 5-2 final win over hosts Sweden.
The forward then went on to enjoy an incredible career, winning three World Cups and scoring a fabled 1281 goals.
“When he got to the World Cup [in Sweden], he was already a sensation,” Pepe explained.
“He had introduced himself a little time before, but he was known throughout Brazil already. After that, he went everywhere and he became the world’s greatest player.
“He had done great things for Santos, and then confirmed everything in Sweden. He scored goals in every imaginable fashion, he was complete,” concluded Pepe, who is pictured below on the left with ex-Santos team-mates Pele and Coutinho.