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Does Brazil lack a “big star”? Pelé doesn’t see Neymar at that level

Apr 25, 2014, 1:06 AM EDT

Edson Arantes do Nascimento, Pele AP

It wasn’t so long ago that some people were making the case for Neymar as one of the best players in the world. After the Brazilian attacker was thrown into European waters this season, however, those advocates have gone silent. Given the former Santos star’s lack of production in with Barcelona, it’s going to be very difficult to claim anybody in South America deserves to be in the conversation with Europe’s elites.

For Brazilian legend Pelé, however, Neymar’s plight highlights a different problem. From our friends at Soccerly:

[Pele] attended a conference on sporting management in Sao Paulo, where he talked about the Brazilians. The former Santos player told reporters: “We don’t have a big star that we can say ‘this one is missing on the team’. We talk about Neymar but this is his first World Cup.

“But as a team, this is the first time in history that we are better in defense than in attack. Brazil has always been the team that wins, that scores goals, that has the goalscorers. It’s the first time we have difficulty finding strikers.

“There are various players that I would like to see in the squad but the team has been set up very well, with just some problems in attack.”

I know Pelé’s become increasingly inclined to say anything whenever there’s a mic around, but certainly 2014 won’t be the first time Brazil’s better in defense than attack. If we go all the way back to 2010, we see Dunga’s team build to defend and counter, a philosophy that relied Luís Fabiano and an already declining Kaká. Playing two defensive midfielders, Dunga’s approach was an inherently conservative one – a plan employed in stark contrast to the myth of a free-flowing Brazil.

Pele has a lot invested in that myth. It’s part of his legacy. He’s the biggest star from the nation that’s reputed to play the world’s most entertaining style, even it that reputation has long been a lie. In reality, Brazil are pragmatists. They play to win, not entertain.

Perhaps that’s why Pelé is harping on this on “big star” issue, though it doesn’t matter. In last summer’s Confederations Cup, Brazil proved they should be considered one of the favorites come June.

Pelé may not see a star in Luiz Felipe Scolari’s squad, but that’s unlikely to have a bearing on the Seleçao’s success this summer.

  1. rphillish - Apr 25, 2014 at 1:14 AM

    My rule of thumb is, whatever Pele says, the opposite is true. With that in mind, I guess we can expect Neymar to light it up, and Brazil will outscore everyone by 2, 3, 4 goals, at least.

  2. jlgsoccer - Apr 25, 2014 at 10:51 AM

    neymar is a big player, but ronaldo and messi are another tier of class. maybe that’s what he’s thinking

  3. elgallo2001 - Apr 25, 2014 at 12:29 PM

    Neymar is a star. Make no mistake, this guy is still very young but I have no doubt that he and the rest of the Brasil will shine this summer.

  4. egb234 - Apr 25, 2014 at 1:10 PM

    Remember when Messi was clearly the best player in the world and on the most impressive run of form ever? But Pele insisted that Messi hadn’t even proven that he was better than Neymar, let alone players from other eras. Hilarious.

    I think the Brazilian side look strong this year. I expect David Luiz to allow mindlessly run out of his position a few times and Neymar to flop around like a fish on a deck in an effort to ruin the sport for self-respecting males everywhere, but other than that they have a lot of quality and I expect/hope the atmosphere will be electric.

  5. talgrath - Apr 25, 2014 at 1:20 PM

    Performance for club and country don’t always match up, just look at Wayne Rooney in the 2010 World Cup. At the time, Rooney was lighting up clubs in the EPL, scoring goals and giving defenses fits, but at the World Cup he didn’t manage a single goal for his country. Poor club form doesn’t necessarily make for poor form for your country and good form for club doesn’t necessarily translate to good form for country either; it’s a different team with a different look.

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