New York - Pele is mourning the passing of the beautiful game, a phrase many say was coined by the 73-year-old Brazilian football wizard.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Pele said tactics have become more and more defensive over the past decades since his retirement. Flowing attack has become a rarity and Pele is saddened by that.
“Italy always played defense - in my time, now, always,” he said. “But unfortunately today, I think because of the millions, because of the new technology, because of the money from the sponsors, the people, they don't care the way they win.”
He says the message from coaches is not win, but rather “don't lose.”
“They don't care about the beautiful game. They don't care about the elegance of football. In my time, we used to think and give a little show.”
As the World Cup returns to the land of “jogo bonito” (the beautiful game), Pele has a new book, “Pele: Why Soccer Matters.”
He doesn't expect Brazil to have an easy path to a record sixth World Cup title - two more than any other nation.
“Germany has a very good team, young team, and then Spain. Spain is a team who plays together eight years, 10 years - same team. Very nice organized team,” he said on Wednesday. “This will be difficult. But we must respect Italy. We must respect Uruguay, because Uruguay is there. Argentina is there.”
Pele was a part of Brazil's first three World Cup champions, in 1958, 1962 and 1970, and he scored 77 goals in 92 games. He starred for Santos from 1956-74 and kick-started football in the United States with New York Cosmos from 1975-77. He still keeps an apartment in Manhattan.
When he retired, he was considered to have no equal. Then Diego Maradona led Argentina to the 1986 World Cup with amazing darting runs, and to the 1990 final. And in this era, Barcelona's Lionel Messi and Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo are scoring at pretty much a goal-a-game rate for their clubs, although they haven't won the ultimate prize with the national teams.
“To compare Pele with Messi, with Maradona, is difficult because we have different styles,” Pele said.
If Pele were in charge of a club, who would be the first player he'd try to sign?
“I'm going to say Neymar because he belongs to us. He comes for free,” said Pele, referring to the young Brazilian forward Santos sold to Barcelona last summer.
“But at the moment,” Pele went on, “as I am a forward, as I score a lot of goals, I will decide: Cristiano Ronaldo.”