Pele: I love Xavi

The Brazil legend says the Spain midfielder is "excellent" and has also called on his homeland to show their support for the World Cup

Brazil legend Pele has revealed his "love" for Spain star Xavi and likened the World Cup holders to Barcelona.

The 73-year-old is a keen admirer of the Blaugrana's style of football and has highlighted the midfielder and two of the club's other main men as the reasons behind his affection for the club.

“I reaffirm: I love Xavi. He is excellent. I mainly like Barca because of Xavi and also [Andres] Iniesta and [Lionel] Messi,” Pele said in an interview with Spanish newspaper AS.

“That team reminds me of my time with Santos playing with Zito, Coutinho and Pepe.

“A lot of Spain’s game is like Barcelona’s. Barcelona is the team of Spain. In fact, there should be about eight Barcelona players in the team.”

One player who will line up for Spain at the World Cup in Brazil is Atletico Madrid striker Diego Costa.

The 25-year-old was born in Brazil but last year made the decision to switch allegiances to the country where he plays his club football, despite featuring in friendly matches for the Selecao.

Pele was surprised that Costa decided to play for Spain but says the striker's choice should be respected.

“I'm surprised to the extent that before nobody wanted to stop playing for Brazil. But times have changed,” Pele said.

“First, you have to respect his decision. He must be where he feels better and it is in Spain.

“It was possible to do that because he has dual citizenship and now I can only wish that Brazil is not unlucky.”

Pele’s Brazil are the hosts of this summer's World Cup, with Luiz Felipe Scolari’s team facing Croatia in Thursday's tournament opener in Sao Paulo.

With Brazilian people venting their anger over the cost of the tournament in a series of public protests, Pele has urged the nation not to blame football for the mistakes of politicians.

“The message I am giving is that football is not guilty. People are right in their complaints, but complaints are not against football,” Pele said.

“This sport has given Brazil the best. It has done great. Another thing is the corruption of politicians.”