Pep Guardiola has no doubt Pele would have dazzled in any era as he paid tribute to the late Brazil great – but Lionel Messi remains his choice for the greatest of all time.
Manchester City manager Guardiola said Pele’s legacy “will be eternal”, remembering how as a young boy he was told all about the Brazilian by a physio at Barcelona.
When Guardiola watched clips of Pele in his prime, he was wowed by the all-round ability of the Santos superstar, who won three World Cups with his country, in 1958, 1962 and 1970.
Pele toured the world with Santos, as teams lined up for the chance to play against him, and he resisted offers to play for European teams, including Real Madrid.
Following his death at the age of 82, announced by family on Thursday, tributes have poured in for Pele, and Guardiola offered condolences to loved ones from himself and City.
“What he has done for football is there and always will remain. He didn’t just win three World Cups – it was a new thing when he came up. I was not born when he was playing, but it’s like a good movie, no?
“The legacy after many years is still there. We are still talking all these years later. Pele, Maradona, Cruyff, Messi, Beckenbauer, Cristiano Ronaldo – these players will be forever, will be eternal.
“They have done many things for many years, and these types of players make our business, our work, our job a better place. What he produced; we have seen with the World Cup one team can change everything for a country of millions of people.”
PEP (On Pelé) On behalf of Manchester City, the biggest condolences to his family and friends… I think Neymar said it, before him No. 10 was just a number and after it became something special… What he has done for football is there and always will remain.
— Manchester City (@ManCity)
Guardiola added, in a tribute posted on City’s website: “When I was in the academy at Barcelona I had a physio who was in love with Brazil and Pele. And after when I was nine or 10, I started to watch some clips.
“Now I realise he was so strong and could do everything. These type of players, if he was playing now, he would adapt to the rhythm and the pace. He was so intuitive and in skills and mentality, he could play in every generation.”
Earlier in December, Guardiola said those preferring Pele or Diego Maradona above Messi did so for “sentimental” reasons.
He is sticking to his guns on rating 2022 World Cup winner Messi above all others, having coached the Argentinian at Barcelona.
“Everyone has their own greatest,” said Guardiola. “For Argentina they might say Di Stefano, Maradona or Messi. I always say Messi is my favourite because I worked with him – but I understand people choose another one.”