Brazil still produces the world’s best footballers but the growing influence of agents on leading players has created a mountain of woes for the national side, Pele said Monday.
The legendary Brazilian, the only player to feature in three World Cup-winning teams, said the passion for football was as strong as ever but acknowledged the “Selecao” were struggling with a host of problems.
“We have not lost passion for football,” Pele said in the eastern city of Kolkata at the start of a visit to India.
“Individually we have the best players but as a team we’ve a lot of problems.
“In my time the players belonged to clubs but today players are managed by their agents,” Pele was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India news agency.
After their 7-1 World Cup semi-final humiliation by Germany last year, Brazil were eliminated from the Copa America in June at the hands of minnows Paraguay.
And their bid to qualify for the 2018 World Cup got off to a disastrous start last week when they lost 2-0 to Chile, their first defeat against their opponents in 15 years.
Nearly all of Brazil’s leading stars play abroad and there are regular complaints that players are too often exploited by agents who are only interested in making money.
The agents have often been at loggerheads with the football authorities. Star striker Neymar’s representative Wagner Ribeiro called the then-coach Luiz Felipe Scolari “arrogant, repulsive (and) conceited” after Brazil’s 2014 World Cup flop.
Pele did not comment on the recent controversies dogging FIFA but added that he had “no intention to contest for the post of president”.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter and UEFA chief Michel Platini were both handed 90-day suspensions this month amid an ongoing corruption probe.
Pele was given a warm welcome in football-mad Kolkata, where he had played an exhibition match way back in 1977.
He will also visit New Delhi to watch the final of a junior tournament.