EXCLUSIVE: Pele's Former Teammate Zito Hails Neymar As His Successor

Goal.com's Andre Baibich spoke EXCLUSIVELY with two-time world champion Zito about the rise of Brazilian legend Pele...
Brazilian legend Edison Arantes do Nascimento, better known as Pele, turned 70 on Thursday 21 October 2010 and Goal.com spoke with one of his former teammates to discuss the rise of one of the best footballers ever. Zito played alongside Pele at three World Cups (1958, 1962 and 1966) and many years at Santos. Nowadays, the once skillful midfielder works at the Santos youth academy and is one of the people responsible for the formation of talented players such as Diego, Robinho, Ganso and Neymar.

Goal.com - How would you describe the 1958 World Cup and the presentation of Pele to the world as a wonder kid?

Zito - Pele was the youngest player of that World Cup and he travelled to Sweden as a substitute for the Selecao. In the second match he was already in along with Garrincha. In his first match he had already shown what he could do.

- Did you expect him to shine in the World Cup based on what you were seeing from him at Santos?

Zito - That was precisely why I was not surprised. At Santos, he started when he was 16 and started to train with us. Soon he was called to be a permanent member of the first team. Then he started to show his talent, improving his performances. In the Paulista State Championship he showed everything he could do. It was all so fast.

- The public has access to Pele, the celebrity. How would you describe Pele, the person?

Zito - He is a very joyful person, likes jokes, he is like anyone else when he is with people that he knows. He likes to joke around. But it's clear that he is a man of the world today, so it's hard to see this side of him as he is always working.

Goal.com - How do you see the comparisons between Pele and Maradona?

Zito - This started after the two (world) titles of Argentina, one of them with Maradona shining and making that goal with his arm. He was very clever. He was a great forward and a great player, but he is not Pele. I can't compare him to Pele. I'm starting to believe that Neymar can become a player equivalent to Pele, but not Maradona.

- A lot of people has said that Pele was a complete player without technical flaws. Is this true? Will we have another player like this?

Zito - Everyone has flaws and he also had them. But Pele was the best player in Brazil. He was not elected the best in the world because FIFA didn't have that award back then. But he was the best in the world in our time. I believe that we had and still have great players. Maradona was a great player, Messi is a great player. But I still think that Neymar is going to be the one that comes closer to Pele, being so young and already shining the way he is.

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