Many believe Lionel Messi is the greatest footballer of all time, but Dani Alves still considers Pele holds greater importance.
Barcelona great Dani Alves feels his Brazilian compatriot Pele – and not Lionel Messi – holds the strongest claim to the ‘greatest of all time’ title because he “changed football”.
Alves played alongside Messi for eight years during his first spell at Camp Nou and formed a devastating relationship with the Argentine on the right wing.
Both players were mainstays in a Barcelona side that enjoyed long periods of dominance in both Spain and Europe, with Alves winning 23 trophies during his initial eight-season spell in Catalonia.
And yet, despite seeing Messi’s brilliance up close and personal, Alves – who now plays in Mexico for UNAM Pumas – still believes Pele’s significance is on a whole other level.
In an interview with Mexico, Real Madrid and Pumas legend Hugo Sanchez on ESPN, Alves was asked to choose between Messi and Pele – he said: “I chose Pele for one reason: he changed football. Messi changed a generation.
“All those people who are more than football, I will choose them. And besides, I am Brazilian.”
“For me, Pele should not be part of this [‘GOAT’] debate. If you ask me who is the best player in history? I would say Messi. Pele is not in it.”
Cristiano Ronaldo was not brought into the ‘GOAT’ discussion, although Alves praised his former Clasico rival when asked about his toughest opponent.
“Cristiano Ronaldo,” added Alves. “This b**** won’t let you breathe for a second. I didn’t do bad, but it’s tough. He’s a scoring machine.”
Now 39, Alves continues his illustrious and hugely successful career in Liga MX after signing a one-year contract with Pumas in July.
He moved to Mexico City after spending eight months at Barcelona, returning to help his former team-mate Xavi.
It remains to be seen whether he will be at the Pumas beyond the current season, although he suggests that thoughts of retirement have yet to take root, even as he joked that he could play for another 10 years if Messi surpasses his world record 47 trophies won.
“First of all, before I ask for anything [another season with the Pumas], I’m happy to deliver,” he said.
“I have a year to prove myself with [Pumas]. I wouldn’t have a problem [staying another year]. I need to show them that I can do it, that together we can build a great team in Mexico that plays in a different way that [allows] young people to take a step forward.
“I don’t like to think about the future because it’s always unknown. I let life take me. If Messi passes me [in trophies], I’ll play until I’m 50!”