Rio de Janeiro: Former Brazilian football player Juliano Belletti says his ex-Barcelona teammate Lionel Messi is the "Pele of this generation".
Messi returned to his best in the second half of the season to inspire the Catalan giants to a treble but came under criticism once again following Argentina's defeat in the Copa America final.
Belletti, who bagged two La Liga titles and one Champions League with Messi at Camp Nou, says the Argentine does not deserve the severe jeers from his countrymen.
"Messi is the Pele of this generation. I do not understand the criticism of him in his own country. You cannot criticise a player like Messi. But it also happened to Ronaldinho in Brazil," Belletti was quoted as saying by goal.com.
The Brazilian also jumped to the defence of his countryman Neymar, who was red carded in the Copa America during the group stage and then was suspended for the rest of the tournament.
"He's young. People think he's older than he is. He still has time to mature. He should rest well and have a good holiday because he deserves it," the former defender said.