Brazilian legend Pele says both Lionel Messi and Wayne Rooney need to perform on the highest international stages before they can be considered world class.
The 71-year-old claims that being exceptional for your club and being exceptional for your country are two completely different things, and only the best can perform at both levels.
“I think a ‘great’ player is defined by their performances at the World Cup,” Pele told The Sun. “For example, watch Lionel Messi play for Barcelona. He is very good. Exceptional. But for Argentina, he’s completely different.”
“Compare him to Zinedine Zidane. He won the World Cup and was at the top for 15 years. He was a more complete player than Messi.
When asked about Wayne Rooney, although the three-time World Cup winner said he was a “fan” of the 26-year-old, he was far from complimentary about his behavior.
“I am a very big fan of Rooney. He always fights for the team. He is not too technical, his strength is his heart,” said Pele. “He’s a good player. But you can’t really compare him to me. I scored a lot of goals. I don’t know if Rooney has.”
Pele believes Rooney’s passion sometimes gets the best of him. “His aggression is a big part of his game — you cannot take that away from him,” he explained. “But a player does have a responsibility to behave himself. It’s hard to change the personality of the player but maybe they can adjust.”
Meanwhile, pressure has continued to mount on Messi and his Argentine team-mates after they forced Bolivia to a 1-1 draw in a 2014 World Cup qualifier in Buenos Aires Friday night as their fans made their feelings known, showering them with boos, which Messi admits hurt.
“What we want most is to play well and win, especially at home. Out of the blue, Bolivia scored and things became complicated. It’s always difficult when you fall behind. We had chances to score more than one goal, but we were unlucky. “The World Cup, the Copa America and now this. It is difficult.”
Not winning makes me angry. There have been many disappointments and I do not know if we can ask [the fans] for patience.”
“The draw against Bolivia makes everything harder – it will be difficult to prepare for the game against Colombia over the next few days. But the players are the first ones who want to make things right.
“Another match is coming up quickly. We know it will be very hard, just like every match away from home. But this time we cannot fail. We simply have to winafter what happened against Bolivia.”