Pele’s bitter feud with Maradona from amazing taunts about drugs and sex, to bickering over Messi and Neymar – The Sun

THERE was no doubting their ability.

Both Diego Maradona and Pele can lay claim to being the greatest football of all time.

The Brazilian won three World Cups for his country, and claims to have scored 1,281 goals in 1,363 games during an astonishing career with Santos and New York Cosmos.

His South American counterpart, the more controversial of the two figures, single-handedly took a struggling Napoli team to the summit of Serie A and won two championships (their only in history) in Italy.

During the peak of his powers he also won the World Cup for Argentina in 1986 – famously defeating England in the quarter-final, first with the 'Hand of God' goal, then with a sublime run from the halfway line past an entire Three Lions defence and Peter Shilton to slide home.

But despite these two legends showing prowess in the beautiful game, neither one has seen eye-to-eye over the years.

Their latest spat has seen Pele leave Maradona out of a list of all-time greats. That adds to a long list of disses the pair have said to one another, as the mud-slinging just keeps coming.


In 2000, both Pele and Maradona released their autobiographies in the same month, as their rivalry reached fever pitch.

A year before they went head-to-head in the book charts, Diego had alleged that the Brazil icon had a gay relationship with one of his youth coaches at Santos.

In 'Pele: His Life and Times', his friend Celso Grellet revealed that Pele thought about retorting to the "ludicrous accusations" but out of respect for Maradona's health problems, he kept his opinions to himself.

He said: "Maradona had said that Pelé had had a homosexual experience. It was never true, but Pele is a big man and decided that he would not respond.

"Pele is heavily involved in the anti-drugs campaign, particularly the abuse of drugs in sport, and Maradona was clearly an ill man.

"Pele thought it was best not to reply because no one could possibly take Maradona seriously.

"There is no doubt that Maradona has made ludicrous allegations, the one about Pele's sexuality being just one of many, as a result of pure envy."


Maradona's tell-all 'I Am Diego' was somewhat complimentary to Pele, although the Argentinian couldn't help but stick a knife in his rival's back.

He ranked Pele as his number one in the list of top 100 players of all-time, but claimed he let his former teammate Garrincha die in poverty.

"As a player he had it all but didn't make the most of it to raise the status of football," Maradona said.

"I'd have liked to see him put himself forward as president of an association to defend players' rights like I did.

"I'd like to have seen him look after Garrincha and not let him die in misery. I'd like to see him fight the rich and powerful that are damaging football."


The debate over who the greatest between Pele and Maradona was began in the 80s, when the Argentinian exploded on the scene.

In fact, when the pair first met in 1979, with Peléeshowing Maradona a few chords on the guitar, it appeared that the ex-Boca Junior star could have found his mentor.

But the rivalry intensified as Maradona's stature in the game grew and comparisons between the two started.

It also didn't help matters that former Argentine President Carlos Menem made Pele his special guest of honour on a visit to the country.

"Menem invited him to the country as his special guest because Pele was his favourite player," Grellet revealed in 'Pele: His Life and Times'.

"It angered Maradona that the Argentine people might place Pele above him.

"Pele has a lot of respect for Maradona as a player but felt that the media should not give any credence to the comments of an ill man.

"It would have been too easy to have said bad things about Maradona in return, but Pele would not do it. "


In 2016, after years of bickering, it appeared that the two might've made up.

They were seen embracing at the Palais Royal in Paris – just before The Friendship Game, a promotional event featuring a five-a-side game between old pros.

“It is really nice to see him like this, healthy, and being able to join us,” Maradona said, months after Pele had undergone hip surgery.

“I’m happy that he’s fine. We should hang together always. And enough of the fighting, enough of the barbs between us.

“I want to thank Pelé, we know who he is and who he will always be. We need icons like him.”

Pele was equally as gushing towards his frenemy.

“This is moment of peace," he said.

"What we’re doing is something for peace and unity. I want to thank my friend Maradona for this opportunity."


Pele, himself, even tried to distance himself from the comparisons that drove a wedge between any friendship saying the pair were different types of players.

"I can’t explain why Maradona is so concerned with that," Pele told Goal.

"Because I always say that he was one of the best in the world, and that’s true.

"Now, we can’t say that Maradona was a great header. He didn’t score goals with headers.

"And we cannot say Maradona shot very well with both feet, because he didn’t shoot with his right, only mainly with his left…

"So from time to time, when people make comparisons, I make jokes about that. For me he was a great player, just that you can’t compare Maradona with Pele."


The war of words between Maradona and Pele appeared to have been reopened in 2011 over Leo Messi and Neymar.

Spanish TV station TVE said Maradona was quoted as saying Neymar was "ill-mannered, just like Pele".

They claimed he then went on to gush praise on his compatriot Messi describing him as "an exceptional player and I doubt anyone can separate him [from being the best]."

He later claimed on his son's life that he didn't make those comments, but that didn't stop Pele from getting his own dig in.

"Messi better than Pele? To get there he needs to score more than 1,283 goals," he said.

"Neymar has great talent. I hope Neymar doesn't end up like Messi, who plays so well for his club but does nothing for his country."

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