Quote of the Day

Very rare—possibly even unprecedented—is the occasion that Argentine legend Diego Maradona is cast as the voice of reason.

But at a press conference in Dubai yesterday, he played the role surprisingly well when asked about Pelé’s recent comments that Lionel Messi is not as good as Brazilian wünderkind Neymar. His response:

“Maybe Neymar is the best player of the world, but only if we clarify that Messi is from another planet.”

If you’re scoring at home, that’s Maradona 1, Pelé 0.

H/T to the RefBaiter.

Lionel Messi Is Making the Great Pelé Nervous, and A Little Desperate

Global icon and almost unanimously recognized Greatest Player of All Time Pelé has made some slightly defensive comments recently regarding Argentine superstar Lionel Messi’s place in the soccer pantheon. But now he’s ratcheting up the player-hater quotient by several notches.

After Messi scored a hat-trick against Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League in early March, the following comments from the legendary Brazilian came to light:

“When Messi has scored 1,283 goals and won three World Cups, then we will talk.

“People always ask me: ‘When is the new Pelé going to be born?’ Never. My father and mother closed down the factory.”

Now that Messi has racked up 61 goals for the season, including an incredible 24 in his last 13 games, the Old Master is at it again, only now his comments have veered from slightly defensive (yet justifiable) to desperate and hypocritical. At an event celebrating the centennial of his former club Santos, Pelé dropped the following pseudo-science (complete with a third-person flourish):

“There’s always this Maradona comparison, saying that he’s better than Pelé. Now some are saying that Messi is better than Pelé. Well, he has to be better than Neymar first, which he isn’t yet. He has more experience.”

The irony and hypocrisy of this statement lie in the fact that it embodies the very thing Pelé was criticizing in his remarks at the top: It’s too early to say that Messi is better than Pelé. Messi is only 24 and he has a lot of soccer ahead of him, and probably two more opportunities to shore up the “World Cup” portion of his résumé. If and when he does that, then, as Pelé put it, “we will talk.”

If that holds true for Messi vs Pele, then it goes double for Neymar—who’s only 20 and has never played in Europe or in a World Cup—vs Messi. Pelé knows that. But not only does he choose to ignore it, he also reverses the comparison, and the players’ standings, by saying Messi isn’t better than Neymar “yet.” As if Messi were the unproven, striving youngster and Neymar the one with 18 trophies and nearly 250 goals.

The comment is so off-base it’s actually made us feel a little sorry for the old (if ageless) guy. He’s starting to hurt his own cause now, and that’s unfortunate, because he does have a point, at least regarding his own legacy.

So here, let’s help him make it:

We enjoyed that double nutmeg at 2:51.

Vinnie Jones Delivers Third-Greatest Halftime Speech in Soccer History

Number one is Pelé, Michael Caine and the boys in the escape tunnel at halftime against the Germans in John Huston’s Victory.

Number two is whatever Alex Ferguson said to Man U the day he hit Beckham in the head with a shoe.

And number three is right here—actor and former Chelsea, Wimbledon, and QPR tough guy Vinnie Jones lighting a fire under his Sunday pub-league team, Hollywood All-Stars:

Hard to settle on just one favorite quote from that, but we’ll go with:

“Mikey! F***ing get in there, come in the midfield, go and pick someone up.  You want sit out there on the f***ing left side and f***ing toss it off!”

Related: Jones has supposedly been working on a Victory remake for years, with designs on casting Beckham in the Bobby Moore role.

Hat tip to the Henchman for the clip.

Your National Soccer Hall of Fame Class of 2010

This group will be honored in a ceremony before tonight’s U.S.-Brazil game at the New Meadowlands Stadium (ESPN2, 8:00 p.m. EST).

Bruce Arena

Led U.S. to 2002 World Cup quarterfinals.

Thomas Dooley

German import provided veteran leadership and backbone in the middle for the U.S. throughout the 1990s.


Owner of the wickedest left foot in U.S. soccer history (and current coach of Toronto FC). Scored the lone goal in U.S.’s historic 1998 Gold Cup win over Brazil.

Kyle Rote Jr.

Pioneering Yank played seven seasons in the NASL, made historic Nutrament commercial.

Bonus, semi-related clip:

Pelé’s 1975 NASL Debut

Check out the field they made him play on: Downing Stadium, Randall’s Island, NYC, unbelievable. No matter, he had a goal and an assist.

Tom Cleverley Covers Pelé, Circa 1958

Manchester United youngster Tom Cleverley clearly has a sense of soccer history. His spectacular goal against the MLS All Stars last night in Houston was a clear homage to Pelé’s famous strike against Sweden in the 1958 World Cup final.

Check it out:

And the original:

Cleverley is faithful to the source material, while adding a few flourishes of his own. It’s got a good beat and you can dance to it. We give it a 10.

The 20-year-old midfielder and 18-year-old striker Federico Macheda, who scored two goals, showed that the cupboard is by no means bare at Man U. The Red Devils put on an entertaining show en route to a 5-2 drubbing of the disjointed MLS All-Stars.

Despite the lopsided scoreline, the game was a success—with more than 70,000 fans in attendance at Houston’s Reliant Stadium—and the MLS team appeared on the verge of making our prediction come true when Brian Ching‘s header hit the net in the 64th minute to make it 2-1.

But then the floodgates opened with goals by Darron Gibson, Cleverley, and rising Mexican star Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, who was making his Manchester United debut. 

The timing of the event was not in the MLS side’s favor as probable starters Edson Buddle, Landon Donovan, and Dwayne DeRosario had all played the night before in CONCACAF Champions League action, and Seattle stars Steve Zakuani and Fredy Montero were unavailable due to the Sounders’ CONCACAF game on the same night as the All-Star tilt.

Pele at England ’66

Courtesy of dead-sexy reader Dave L comes this link to a collection of previously unpublished Life magazine photos of Pele at the 1966 World Cup. The above shot comes from Brazil’s 3-1 loss to Hungary during group play at Goodison Park (Everton’s home stadium).

The ’66 Cup was an injury-marred one for Pele, and Brazil, the defending world champion, did not advance out of its group with Hungary, Portugal and Bulgaria, with some observers saying the Brazilians were the victims of hard fouls by opponents and poor officiating.

Nevertheless the photographs Life has unearthed are well worth checking out, as they show a young Pele in candid, portrait, and action shots, including several of him playing goalkeeper–apparently, the world’s greatest player was also Brazil’s third-string keeper at the ’66 tournament.