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Messi or Pele? Two former Brazil stars choose their greatest of all time

22:18 IST 27/04/2018
Pele Lionel Messi
Belletti believes it is impossible to compare the pair, while Santos legend Pepe affirms his ex-team-mate was a mix of Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo

Two former Brazil stars have had their say on whether Pele or Lionel Messi holds the right to be called the greatest footballer of all time. 

Pele lifted three World Cups during his glittering career between 1958 and 1970. 

He also spearheaded a Santos team that is considered one of the best in history, scoring over 1,000 career goals before helping to launch professional football in the United States with the New York Cosmos. 

Messi, meanwhile, is still looking for his first World Cup, but he has taken the sport to new levels over the last decade with Barcelona and was the first player to ever win the coveted Ballon d'Or on five occasions. 

But who is the best? Goal asked Pele's old Santos and Brazil team-mate Pepe and ex-Chelsea and Barcelona man Belletti for their opinion.

Belletti, who played alongside Messi at Camp Nou and picked up 23 Brazil caps, had no qualms in picking the Argentina captain as his favourite of the modern era, while shying away from making a definitive comparison. 

"I've spoken a lot of times. Messi is the best player of my generation," the former defender said. 

"I haven't seen Pelé play... it's impossible to compare Pelé and Messi. Only the ones who saw both of them playing, or played with or against them.

"It's the journalists who like to compare, the athletes don't like to do that. There's no point. I think it's wrong to compare Pelé and Messi."

Pepe, a member of Brazil's winning 1958 and 1962 World Cup teams and nicknamed the 'Vila Cannon' for his venomous shooting, believes that Pele was a more complete player than "short" Messi. 

"He did amazing stuff. Messi does as well, but Pele was taller, stronger, a better header, he had more drive. He had much more than Messi," he said.

"Messi is short, that doesn't stop him being a marvellous player, as Maradona was. These comparisions will always happen.

"For me, [Pele] was an alien, he did things that I have never seen other players do. He had the ability of a Messi, and the heading, strength, drive and speed of Cristiano Ronaldo".