Maradona hails Pele as they make “peace” in Paris

Diego Maradona hailed his old rival Pele as an “icon” as the pair were reunited for a “match of friendship” on Thursday.

The 75-year-old Brazil great and 55-year-old Argentine legend even embraced during the five-a-side exhibition game in a sign that they have drawn a line under their long-running feud.

“I want to thank Pele, we know who he is and who he will always be. We need icons like him,” said Maradona, who starred in Argentina’s 1986 World Cup triumph.

Three-time world champion Pele, who spoke to Sky Sports earlier this month about Manchester United and England striker Marcus Rashford, also struck a conciliatory tone in response.

“The most important is the message of peace. Many thanks to my friend Maradona for this opportunity and a big round of applause to the players who have been here today,” said Pele.

“This is a moment of peace.”

 

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It was a far cry from the acrimony between them when FIFA was trying to decide the player of the 20th Century in 2000.

The world body organised an online vote which Maradona easily won. But FIFA thought the online users at the time were too young and so the vote was skewed in Maradona’s favour.

It then organised a vote by readers of the FIFA magazine and cast by an international jury. This time Pele won by a landslide.

FIFA decided to split the award and named Pele and Maradona as the two greatest players of all time.

“I had the vote of the people, Pele won by forfeit,” said Maradona, who walked out of a Rome gala so he did not see the Brazilian collect his award.

 

Mandatory Credit: Photo by NIVIERE/SIPA/REX/Shutterstock (5725253i) Diego Maradona and Pele Diego Maradona and Pele visit a Hublot promotional event, Paris, France - 09 Jun 2016 Argentina's Diego Maradona and Pele of Brazil competed as coach on Thursday in a friendly in Paris organized on the eve of the opening of Euro 2016 in France

Maradona later accused Pele of letting his former Brazil teammate Garrincha “die in misery”. Pele responded that Maradona was “sick”.

Asked on Thursday which of the two players was better, a grinning Pele said: “There is no doubt. Pele is the better player. You can ask my mother and my father if you want to be sure of that.”

Maradona thrilled the crowd at the Palais Royal with a cameo appearance in the 30-minute five-a-side contest. Pele, still recovering from a hip operation in January, remained in his coaching role on the touchline.

The event, organised by a Swiss watchmaker with UEFA, featured the likes of former France striker David Trezeguet, Italy goalkeeper Angelo Peruzzi and Dutch midfielder Clarence Seedorf.

Ex-Brazil forward Bebeto, a 1994 World Cup winner, also took part alongside Rio Ferdinand, Dida, Hernan Crespo and Fernando Hierro as the match finished in a diplomatic 8-8 draw.