France has a king again, and his name is Pel�. Soccer's grand ambassador is all over Paris—commentating, smiling, flogging products—in short, being Pel�. So it seemed only natural last month when, upon presenting the French Open men's singles trophy, he acknowledged the crowd by hoisting the hardware himself. We tracked him down on the eve of the second round.
Q: Which players have impressed you most?
A: [Zinedine] Zidane from France and [Jay-Jay] Okocha of Nigeria. Those are the only two who have stood out in my mind so far. They're intelligent players, and they have excellent ball control.
Q: Have the Americans gotten better or worse since the '94 World Cup?
A: I think their level of talent was about the same this year. The difference was their group was much more difficult in '98.
Q: How can the U.S. improve?
A: I'd have them play a lot more games against European and South American teams. They need more experience against top-level competition.
Q: Would you like to be the next U.S. coach?
A: I've been asked to coach national teams all over, including the U.S., but my desire has never been to be a professional coach. Someday I'd like to teach amateur players and prepare youth teams from Brazil for a Cup.