LONDON: Pele is supporting Sepp Blatter's bid to continue running world football as the FIFA president prepares for his toughest-ever election battle.
Blatter is taking on three rivals in FIFA's May election, including friend, Luis Figo, the former Portugal, Barcelona and Real Madrid player.
But the Brazilian legend is insistent that the 79-year-old Blatter should serve a fifth, four-year term despite lingering questions over FIFA's handling of ethics scandals.
"I am going to be clear, I will support Sepp Blatter because Blatter has more experience, he stayed there a long time," said in an interview with The Associated Press on Friday. "Of course in life you must have some changes, but I will support Blatter, I think he is still has opportunity to do nice administration."
Pele believes FIFA's biggest challenge is being able to effectively manage a rapidly-expanding game. "People should pay attention to one thing, for some years it was two or three countries (dominating) football)," the Brazilian said. "Now you have growth ... Asia, Africa. (It's) becoming more difficult to administrate FIFA now, that is the problem."
Pele also highlighted "this problem with Platini and Blatter" — with UEFA President Michel Platini demanding the 79-year-old Swiss steps aside.
Platini, though, is not a candidate in the election. Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan and Dutch football chief Michael van Praag are joining Figo and Blatter as candidates in the secret ballot of FIFA's 209 member associations.
The 74-year-old was speaking at a Subway sandwich store promotional event in London three months after leaving a Brazilian hospital after being treated for a urinary tract infection. The infection stemmed from a Nov. 13 surgery to remove kidney stones.
"Of course, when you stay in the hospital always people worry but ... I am a strong guy," said , who is attending Liverpool's Premier League match against Manchester United on Sunday. "I am healthy. Thanks to everyone who prayed for me."
The illness also brought on renewed reflections on achievements — winning three World Cups with Brazil — and where he ranks among the greatest players of all time.
"I think always when they talk about big names, big players at the moment they compare with me," said. "We have to talk about the moment — the past is the past — but you cannot forget George Best, Bobby Moore, Bobby Charlton, , (Franz) Beckenbauer, (Johan) Cruyff. You have excellent players in the past."
These days, it's Barcelona forward Lionel Messi and Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo who have joined the discussion about the best ever.
"Messi is more my style," said , who presented the FIFA world player of the year award to Ronaldo in 2014. "In the last 10 years the better player in the world was Messi — no doubt. ... Ronaldo is more of a center forward. Messi is more for the team."
One thing still finds it painful to talk about is Brazil's 7-1 loss to Germany in the World Cup semifinals on home soil last July. "You have to talk about this?" said. "This is life. This happens. Football is always a box of surprise."