Pele slams current footballers as too money minded

ABUJA: Pele has urged world football''s governing body (FIFA) to introduce a salary cap for players and warned that the vast sums of money changing hands in the game could taint its image for future generations.

Pele, in Nigeria to promote Rio de Janeiro''s bid to host the 2016 Olympic Games, told Reuters he was concerned about how the game had changed with the influx of money from billionaire owners.

"My time was a little different -- we did not have the big sponsors," Pele told Reuters in an interview at the Brazilian embassy in Nigeria''s capital Abuja late on Monday.

"Today they have big sponsors, big companies to support football. But in my point of view and the point of view of FIFA, these (players'' salaries) must be controlled."

FIFA President Sepp Blatter has spoken out about the huge sums of money in the game, echoing concerns from Europe''s ruling body UEFA and other sports officials.

However, Blatter also welcomed Cristiano Ronaldo''s 80 million ($131.3 million) move from Manchester United to Real Madrid, saying it demonstrated the game''s enduring popularity.

The Spanish side have recently splashed out more than $300 million to bring in Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Kaka and Raul Albiol.

Pele warned that soccer''s image could be tainted for future generations if huge amounts of money continued to change hands in the sport.

"You get a player today that they announce in Manchester United, Real Madrid or Milan or any other team, and they kiss their shirt," the three-times World Cup winner said after an event donating soccer balls to Nigerian children.

"The next day, he goes to another team and he kisses that shirt. This, I think, is something we have to pay attention to for the next generation."

Pele, along with other members of Rio de Janeiro''s delegation, are expected to make their pitch to International Olympic Committee (IOC) members in Nigeria''s capital Abuja later on Tuesday.

Fellow candidates for the 2016 Games -- Chicago, Tokyo and Madrid -- will also make their case for hosting the event to IOC members. A winner will be chosen on Oct. 2 in Copenhagen.

"You have had a lot of Olympics in the United States, in Europe, but in South America we don''t have," Pele said.

"Everybody knows Brazil is prepared for (the Olympics). Not only Brazil, but the whole of South America."

Brazil will also host the football World Cup in 2014.