NEW YORK -- Pele couldn't be happier about Neymar teaming up with Lionel Messi at Barcelona, but the Brazilian legend once again sparked the conversation of which striker is better.
Speaking to Goal, Pele attempted to clarify statements made last year when he said four-time reigning world player of the year Messi is not as good as Neymar, who, at 21, has yet to walk on the pitch for a major European club after spending his young career at Brazil's Santos.
"I never think that, although when people ask me about the comparisons and who is the best, I'll say, 'If you see Neymar, he doesn't have the same experience as Messi after 10 years at a club,'" Pele said. "(Neymar) has really gone up the last two years. He can use both feet good and get up in the air.
"The difference that I try to explain to the people is that both are really good. I love Messi, I love the player. But to make the comparison, I think Neymar has the capabilities to play better than Messi... or maybe not."
Neymar officially signed a five-year deal with Barcelona and was presented in front of thousands of fans at Camp Nou on Monday. The reigning Spanish league champion won an intense bidding war with rival Real Madrid to complete what will likely be the biggest transfer of the summer.
Pele, who is widely considered the greatest soccer player of all time, is not too happy that Neymar had to leave the club he once played for, but Pele understands the youngster needs experience overseas.
"I'm not happy, because Santos lost a good player," Pele joked. "But, seriously, I think it's good for him, because Neymar was no doubt the best player in Brazil and then he gets the experience to play also abroad. To play in Europe is a little different than to play in South America. Football in Europe is a little more tough, while South America is a little more laid back and technical."
During a transfer saga that lasted nearly two years, many speculated -- due to Santos' claims -- that Neymar would wait until after the 2014 World Cup in Brazil to join one of the world's biggest clubs. Instead, he will have one full season under his belt playing alongside the likes of Messi, Xavi and Andres Iniesta prior to the prestigious competition in his native country.
Neymar will have a chance to break out on the international stage with a Brazilian squad Pele believes has a chance to win the final. Brazil, which is currently 19th in the FIFA world rankings, replaced coach Mano Menezes with Luiz Felipe Scolari this past November.
"I think Brazil has an excellent opportunity to do well," Pele said. "To win [in the World Cup] is very hard in football, but the team has the players. The team had almost three years with Mano Menezes. Unfortunately, we didn't have a base. Now, one month with Felipe and [technical director Carlos Alberto] Parreira, they are excellent coaches."
However, Pele believes that Germany and Spain are still the favorites to win the World Cup ahead of his home country.
"If you had to select now, one year before the World Cup, I think Germany would be a good surprise, they have a good team and good players, and Spain no doubt. Then Brazil," Pele said.
Alex Labidou contributed reporting to this article. You can follow him on Twitter.
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