The "King of Football" even went so far to say Messi is not even today's best player, according to Goal.com.
"Now everyone is talking about Messi, he is a star. But [to be the best ever] he must first become better than Neymar," he asserted. "At the moment Messi is just more experienced."
Neymar is already a bona fide star. He has won trophies with Santos, both in his native Brazil and in continental play, scoring goals that make the world take notice of his special gifts along the way. The Brazil international will reportedly team up with Messi at FC Barcelona after the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
But he cannot be put in Messi's category at this moment. Messi has simply piled up more individual and team awards than Neymar. Although his Barcelona teammates are of a higher standard than Neymar's, it is nearly impossible to overstate Messi's on-field greatness. He seems to break records almost every time he steps on the field.
Pele's words must be taken with a grain of salt. The rivalry between Brazilian and Argentine soccer is an epic one that will last until the end of time. It certainly colors the three-time FIFA World Cup winner's thinking on the matter.
The soccer legend also has a vested interest in juicing the Neymar hype machine. The 20-year-old phenom is certainly a star in the making. He is still playing in Brazil for Pele's favorite club, Santos. When European teams come calling to bring Neymar overseas, the club expects him to command a record transfer fee. What better way of maximizing a player's transfer value than to have the best player ever say he's better than Messi?
Thumbnail photo via Flickr/Santos Futebol Clube