Pele: Brazil must protect young stars Lucas & Neymar

The pair have received praise from across world football, but their compatriot believes that they must be treated with care in order to avoid failure at the next World Cup
Brazilian football legend Pele has implored his nation to take care of wonderkids Neymar and Lucas Moura in the run-up to the World Cup in 2014.

The Santos idol and three-time World Cup winner has made no secret of his admiration for the two young stars, having named Neymar the best player in the world on several occasions. The 20-year-old Peixe sensation has already picked up 16 caps for the Selecao, while Sao Paulo's Lucas, 19, has appeared 11 times for the senior side.

Speaking on Thursday, 'O Rei' affirmed that the pair would have to form the cornerstone of the Brazilian challenge in 2014, but added that they needed to be protected in order to arrive at the World Cup in optimum form and fitness.

"We have had a lot of similarly great players, but they could never show their best in the Selecao shirt. Neymar is the man of the hour, he is playing brilliantly and he is now more mature, but we still need to take care," Pele told Portal da Copa.

"We have Lucas, who has massive potential in the middle of the field. But the World Cup is not so easy. There are a lot of players around who are not up to the grade, and we have to take care of our stars."

The Brazil icon moved on to defend Brazil coach Mano Menezes, who has been under pressure to lift the team's performances ever since Neymar and Co. crashed out of the Copa America at the quarter-final stage almost 12 months ago.

"We still have two years. The key is to form the Selecao around players who deserve to be there. Not a Selecao of players protected by agents, protected by journalists who talk them up. We have the men, we just need to create a team," he explained.

Pele first lifted the World Cup trophy as a teenager in 1958, and would repeat the triumph in 1962 and 1970 alongside such football legends as Garrincha, Jairzinho and Tostao.