Sap Paulo: Brazilian football legend Pele has lashed out at Argentinian star player turned coach Diego Maradona, saying he is a bad example to young people, news reports said on Saturday.
Pele's comments to the press late Friday in Sao Paulo could be the kick-off of a latest row between the veteran footballers, who have exchanged heated words through the media in the past.
"He is not a good example for the youth," Pele, who is to turn 70 October 23, said of the Argentinian player, almost exactly 20 years his junior.
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Maradona, considered alongside Pele to be one of the best footballers of all time, is a colourful public figure who has wrestled with substance abuse and intense media attention since retiring as a player in 1997.
"He had the God-given gift of being able to play football, and that is why he is lucky," Pele said. "With everything that has happened in his life, there are still people who give him contracts. If they had more of a conscience, they wouldn't take him on.
"If he doesn't change, he won't have any more work. He was a great player, but is a negative example," the Brazilian said of Maradona, whose 50th birthday is October 30.
The fiery Argentine was not expected to take the criticism lying down. The last time his elder rival commented on his behaviour, he retorted, "Who cares what Pele says?"
That exchange came earlier in the year as Maradona's coaching contract with the national team was not extended, following their quarter-final loss in the South Africa World Cup.