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Jesse Fink is one of Asia's most read football columnists and has been named by ChangeFIFA as an "expert on world football you must follow".

Pelé’s mouth should get a straight red


ity Pelé. The retired football great doesn't do a hell of a lot with his time but flog credit cards and travel around the world telling anyone who will listen just how great he is, often in the third person, by denigrating other players.

He's done it for years with Diego Maradona. Now he's doing it with Lionel Messi. It's not the first time he's taken aim at the Barcelona wizard. In June he charged Messi "does nothing for his country". 

"I think a 'great' player is defined by their performances at the World Cup," he said in an interview with The Sun newspaper in Britain. "For example, watch Lionel Messi play for Barcelona. He is very good. Exceptional. But for Argentina, he's completely different.

"Compare him to Zinedine Zidane. He won the World Cup and was at the top for 15 years. He was a more complete player than Messi. Before Zidane there was Johan Cruyff, Franz Beckenbauer, Michel Platini and Bobby Moore."

It’s not the first time he’s taken aim at the Barcelona wizard (Messi). In June he charged Messi “does nothing for his country”.

And no Maradona, according to Pele's blinkered, self-serving vision of the football universe. He really is an egotistical fool.

In any event, it's an argument that has many holes. Did Pelé ever score four goals in a Champions League quarter-final like Messi did against Arsenal at Camp Nou in 2010? The Brazilian never played professional club football in Europe.

as Messi enjoyed in his 60-odd appearances for the Albicelestes the sort of freedom he has in nearly 200 at Barça and which Pelé was provided in the Seleção? Hardly. It was only at the last World Cup, under Maradona, that Messi was liberated from the shackles he was placed under previous coaches to stick to a system rather than be a free-roaming agent of destruction. And the World Cup is now regarded as a competition inferior to the Champions League. That wasn't the case, of course, in Pelé's day when international football reigned supreme.

But that is all irrelevant. Or should be. Football is probably only second to cricket in its infuriating habit of trying to order the intangibles of beauty and creativity into ranking tables. It is a habit that is beneath the game.

Just as Pelé's continuing campaign of self-promotion, more than three decades after he finished playing, is beneath contempt. It says everything about Pelé's monstrous hubris that such a magician in his own right would resort to talking about himself (in the third person, no less) like he did to CNN in April: "Nobody did what Pelé did. Being champion of the world at 17 years old, won three World Cups, scored more than 1208 goals – only him. Then until now, nobody did this. To me, Pelé is the best." Maybe so. But to the rest of us you're an insufferable pain.

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