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Pele interview: Rooney, Brazil and his hopes and predictions for the World Cup

June 10th, 2010

The greatest World Cup hero of all has singled out Wayne Rooney as the man to lead England to glory in South Africa.

Brazilian legend Pele, in an exclusive interview with Mirror Sport, believes Rooney already holds his own in the illustrious company of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

But Pele says Rooney can go onto to become the best in the world and can overcome his fiery temper to be England’s “very dangerous” threat in South Africa.

In a far-ranging interview, Pele admits that he is increasingly concerned about the badge kissing culture within football and modern-day players are not showing enough loyalty.

Furthermore, Pele has attacked greed within the game and also says he is desperate for an African team to reach the final of the first tournament held in the Continent.

But World Cup winner Pele says that with Fabio Capello in charge and Rooney leading the attack then England are genuine contenders in South Africa.

Pele even picked out Rooney as being “special” enough to wear the magical number ten shirt at this summer’s World Cup finals as he looks to follow in the footsteps of the Brazilian himself and Diego Maradona.

Pele said: “I know Capello and he is a great coach. England has a very strong team, a lot of good players, and Rooney is very dangerous.

“There are a lot of great players in this World Cup, like Eto’o, Wayne Rooney, Pirlo, Xavi, Messi, Robinho, Cristiano Ronaldo and many others, who can decide a important match.

“It’s hard to pick just three. But Rooney can be the best player in the world. Of course he can.

“The number ten is special. Before Pele, no-one would wear the number ten. No-one would care about the number ten. Now the shirt is very special. The number tens are now great players.

“There are great players in the world. But the number tens have a special personality, they are the star of the team, they make things happen, they are special. It has a special feeling.”

Pele still favours Spain and Brazil as the best teams in South Africa but is reluctant to pick out a favourite to win the trophy.

However, Pele says he would love to see Brazil take on an African team in the World Cup final.

Pele famously predicted an African team would win the World Cup by 2010 and now, ten years later, football is still waiting.

The Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Algeria and hosts South Africa are the representatives this time as the tournament is held in the Continent for the first time.

But they are all seen as big outsiders and the waiting may continue for an African nation to realise their potential on the biggest stage.

However, Pele would love to see a breakthrough this time and believes it would be important to the future of the game.

Pele said: “Spain and Brazil have the best teams, but is difficult to point a favourite team. But I’d love to see Brazil playing of the African teams in the Final.

“I have good knowledge of Africa and I have no doubts that it will be a great World Cup this summer. It will be a good tournament, well organised and very exciting.

“Brazil will have to be at their best to win the World Cup this summer. It will be hard but they can do it.”

But Pele has also attacked the dark side of the beautiful game and says loyalty has been replaced with greed.

While he would not name names, the fact he named Real Madrid may mean that Cristiano Ronaldo was in his thoughts following his £80million move from Manchester United last summer.

Pele enjoyed 18 years at Santos and snubbed moves abroad until finally going to the New York Cosmos in 1975.

That was supposedly to wind down his playing career, but Pele still managed 37 goals in 64 appearances in the star-studded North American Soccer League.

But Pele, mockingly kissing a badge as he spoke, says that loyalty, love and magic has gone from today’s football.

Pele said: “Now a lot of players don’t play for the love of the game. It’s normal now you see players playing for six months or even three months now with one team then they change team. They go for the money.

“The players go to another team, they’re at the presentation and they say: ‘I love Real Madrid’, then two months later they move to Arsenal or Man United and two months later at the presentation, they say: ‘I love this club.’

“This is the biggest shame in football now. Players used to stay at clubs for five years, longer, one club for their whole career. I had 18 years at Santos because I loved the game.

“I had chances to go to Italy, Spain, wherever. But I loved Santos. But now, unfortunately, players get a lot of offers, proposals, and players move more for money.”

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