Pele on Saturday praised “outstanding” Lionel Messi for breaking his record as the top goal scorer in a South American national team but apologised for the delay in offering his congratulations.
Messi’s hat-trick in a World Cup qualifier for Argentina against Bolivia on September 9 came just four days after Brazilian legend Pele had undergone surgery for a suspected colon tumour.
“Hi @leomessi, sorry if I’m late. However, I didn't want to pass up the chance to congratulate you for another record broken earlier this month,” Pele wrote on Instagram.
“Your talent when playing soccer is outstanding! I hope you achieve even more, alongside my friends @k.mbappe and @neymarjr (at PSG).”
Messi surpassed Pele’s record of 77 international goals and now boasts 79 in his career.
On Friday, Pele's daughter said her 80-year-old father has taken “several steps” towards recovery after his operation three weeks ago.
“These last days, he has taken several steps,” Kely Nascimento said in a message on Instagram with photos of the two of them playing cards, Pele smiling.
“He taught me how to play a card game and he is beating me hands down,” she added.
On Wednesday, Nascimento had posted a video of Pele singing the anthem of Santos, his former club.
Considered by many to be the greatest footballer of all time, Pele has been in poor health in recent years, and has had various stints in hospital.