Considered by many to be the greatest soccer player of all time, Pele contends today’s footballers come up short compared to those of the past.
“My memories are of Bobby Charlton, Bobby Moore, and not forgetting Banks — Gordon was a proper great,” Pele reminisced. “And that was just in England. All around the world it was the same: brilliant Germans, Dutchmen and of course Brazilians.”
A member of three Brazilian World Cup-championship teams, the 75-year-old icon argues that there are few great players inhabiting today’s soccer fields. “Today you have just three great players in the world, [Lionel] Messi, [Cristiano] Ronaldo and maybe Neymar … maybe,” Pele said.
Today the agents control the athletes, Pele maintains, creating an atmosphere not conducive to player development. Personal managers and agents encourage footballers to seek lucrative contracts, enticing them to move to other teams before they have a chance to reach their potential, Pele shared with the Telegraph.
“I think one of the problems is that the players used to remain longer in the team they started with, in the country they were born,” he said. “Before, the players belonged to their club, they had the chance to grow there. Now the players belong to the impresarios, the agents, their personal managers.”
Pele cites his home country as a haven for negative relationships festering between players and agents.
“We have this problem in Brazil. The best players start to play, then immediately comes the impresario, they pay a little too much, and hoping to make money straight away, they push them too early. They don’t have time to develop,” Pele lamented.