Argentina coach Diego Maradona on Wednesday put Brazilian legend Pele in his place, insisting the latter was the second best player ever after himself.
A FIFA internet poll in 2000 saw Maradona, who will lead the albiceleste against the five-times world champion Brazilians in a September 5 World Cup qualifier, come out on top and he said on Wednesday that ought to settle the issue.
“What matters is that when the people voted, he came second behind me. Nobody can take that away from me,” insisted Maradona, who said the fact he had played with success in European club football, unlike Pele, ought to be the clincher – even if Pele won three World Cup titles to his one.
Maradona told FIFA.com that he believed he deserved the accolade of number one player ever.
“Do you know what? I played in European football for ten years while Pele played in South America. Yes he won World Cups and everything, but playing in Europe is something else entirely,” he said.
“Not that that makes me much better than him or anything like that. When I played, the man-markers in Spanish and Italian football were like hunting dogs. They never left me alone,” said the Argentine.
“What matters is that when the people voted, he came second behind me. Nobody can take that away from me. And there was another vote in Brazil in which he came second behind Ayrton Senna. He needs to stop coming second.”
Next month, Maradona will need to put one over today’s generation of Brazilians who lead the way in continental qualifying.
Argentina currently lie fourth in South American qualifying for the 2010 World Cup finals with 22 points, just two ahead of Ecuador but five behind Brazil.
Only the top four sides qualify automatically for the finals in South Africa.
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