PARIS (AP) — Pele is counting on Neymar to lead Brazil to a World Cup title and erase the painful memory of the last time the country hosted the tournament.
Considered by many to be soccer's greatest player, Pele was only 9 years old when Brazil lost to Uruguay in the 1950 World Cup final. Pele then led Brazil to the title eight years later, when he was 17 and again in 1962 and 1970.
With Brazil holding the tournament this year, the pressure is on the 22-year-old Neymar, who scored a hat trick last week against South Africa.
"Neymar is a great player. I know him very well, because he played for Santos and my son was goalkeeper there, and then coached in the youth teams," the 73-year-old Pele said a news conference at Paris City Hall, where the World Cup trophy has been on display since Sunday.
"I think the pressure you speak of exists. What's important is that he plays for Barcelona and the fact he left Brazil means that he gained in experience."
After a difficult start to his career in Spain, Neymar has shown glimpses of his potential, scoring a hat trick in the Champions League against Celtic and a further seven goals in 20 league games.
Pele thinks leaving the comfort zone of Santos will serve Neymar, and Brazil.
"In Europe it's more difficult and it's been a great experience for him to leave Brazil. The six months have been a great opportunity for him," Pele said through a translator. "So he will go to Brazil having gained in experience. But the pressure won't just be on Neymar, it will be on the whole of the Brazil team."