Leo Messi
Leo Messi Reuters

Brazil legend Pele has praised Neymar for his debut season in Spain, despite widespread criticism in the Spanish press about the performances produced by Barcelona's big-name signing.

However Pele aimed surprising criticism at Neymar's Camp Nou teammate Leo Messi, claiming the Argentine star performs far better for his club than for his country.

Pele told reporters that Neymar's first season in Spain was very good, and the experience he has gained in La Liga will prove invaluable for the national side.

Pele's remarks may raise eyebrows among Spanish football followers, as Neymar has managed just nine goals and eight assists in La Liga this season.

In last month's Copa del Rey final, he missed a crucial opportunity late on and was utterly eclipsed by match-winner Gareth Bale.

Pele went on to describe Messi as a top player, like Cristiano Ronaldo, but questioned the former's performances for Argentina.

Pele, who won the World Cup three times with Brazil and is widely regarded as football's greatest-ever player, suggested the disparity between Messi's form for club and country may be because Barca, unlike Argentina, have a settled side used to playing with each other.

However he declined to offer a clear reason for what he perceives as Messi's under-achievement for the Albiceleste.

To watch the video of Pele's comments, click on the video below.

Pele discusses Neymar and Messi. Rightster