Pep Guardiola has no doubt that Pele would have shone in any era paying homage to the late great Brazilian, but Lionel Messi remains his choice as the greatest player of all time.
Manchester City manager Guardiola said Pelé’s legacy “will last forever”, recalling how, as a child, a physiotherapist at Barcelona told him all about the Brazilian.
When Guardiola watched clips of Pele in his prime, he was struck by the all-round ability of the Santos superstar who won three World Cups with his country in 1958, 1962 and 1970.
Pelé 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.
Since his death at the age of 82, which the family announced on Thursday, tributes have been showered in Pele’s memory, with Guardiola offering condolences to those close to him and City.
“Football is football because of these people, the players and the people,” Guardiola said.
“What he did for football is and will remain forever. He didn’t just win three World Cups – that was new when he came. I wasn’t born when he was playing, but it’s like a good movie, isn’t it?
“The legacy after many years is still there. We’re still talking all these years later. Pele, Maradona, Cruyff, Messi, Beckenbauer, Cristiano Ronaldo – these players will always be, will be eternal.
“They have done a lot of things over the years, and these players make our business, our work, our work better. What did he produce; we saw at the World Cup that one team can change everything for a country with millions of people.”
PEP (About Pel) On behalf of Manchester City, my deepest condolences to his family and friends… I think Neymar said it, before him the number 10 was just a number, and after that it became something special… What he did for football, yes. and will always remain.
— Manchester City (@ManCity) December 30, 2022
Guardiola added: “When I was at the Barcelona academy, I had a physiotherapist who was in love with Brazil and Pelé. And then, when I was nine or ten, I started watching some clips.
“Now I understand that he was so strong and could do anything. Players of this type, if he played now, would adapt to the rhythm and pace. He had such intuition, skill and mentality that he could play in any generation.”
Earlier in December, Guardiola said those who prefer Pele or Diego Maradona to Messi do so for “sentimental” reasons.
He stands firm in his opinion of 2022 World Cup winner Messi above everyone else, having coached the Argentine at Barcelona.
“Everyone has their best result,” Guardiola said. “For Argentina, they can call Di Stefano, Maradona or Messi. I always say that Messi is my favorite because I worked with him, but I understand that people choose someone else.”