Photographer: Ronnie Macdonald

It’s always entertaining to hear Diego Maradona whining that he was a better player than Pelé.

No matter that almost everyone who seen them both play rates Pelé higher.

Now, however, Maradona is updating that age-old dispute between Brazil and Argentina by claiming Neymar is not as good as Lionel Messi and probably never will be.

So far, he’s right. Messi has not only won much more than Neymar, he has done so with elegance and poise, both on and off the pitch.

But what was most interesting about Maradona’s latest rant was him targeting Neymar for his bad attitude. “That boy is ill-mannered and he respects no one, just like Pelé,” Maradona said (according to this story on

Now, aside from the obvious, ‘black, kettle, pot’ aspect of Diego Maradona criticising another player’s attitude, it’s illustrative how Neymar has so quickly managed to acquire an image as a cheat, an arrogant boor and a spoilt brat.

Take this opinion last week from O Globo’s Fernando Calazans: “I am a bit sick of seeing him rolling around on the ground and then inventing stories about the referee threatening to send him off. The only person threatening to get Neymar sent off is Neymar himself, with his spoilt child antics and his addiction to being a star.”

That damning indictment from one of the most astute football columnists in Brazil is no isolated criticism.

Opposing manager Rene Simões called Neymar “a monster” last year and said he had seldom seen a player “as ignorant or unsporting.”

Several opposing players have accused him of cheating.

And after he scored both goals in a 2-0 win over Scotland earlier this year, amid lots of rolling around and feigning injury, former Chelsea winger Pat Nevin said Neymar “lives in an alternative universe where the slightest brush leads to mortal pain that looks like it is going to kill him and then 20 seconds later he is magically better.”

Neymar accused the Scotland fans of racism in that match but even after it was revealed the banana thrown on the pitch came from a German teenager, Neymar stubbornly refused to apologise for the accusation.

He would do well to grow up and show some humility and he could start by looking at some appropriate role models.

That doesn’t mean Pelé and it certainly doesn’t mean Maradona.

Neymar should spend more time trying to be like Lionel Messi. Both on and off the field.

P.S. Good luck to Santos (and Neymar) in the final of the Libertadores match tonight against Peñarol.