pele calls for cap on salaries

ABUJA, Nigeria - Pele has urged world soccer'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, said 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 said 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 officials.

Blatter has, however, also welcomed Cristiano Ronaldo's R1billion move from Manchester United to Real Madrid, saying it demonstrated the game's enduring popularity.

The Spanish side recently splashed out more than R24 billion to bring in Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Kaká 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-time 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." - Reuters