Brazilian legend Pele has described England striker Wayne Rooney as ‘the most brilliant young player in Europe’.

Pele has identified the 20-year-old as they key man if England are to mount a challenge at next year’s finals.

Speaking ahead of Friday’s draw for the World Cup finals, Pele was keen to play down expectations about hot favourites Brazil.

“Everyone says Brazil are the favourites but I don’t feel comfortable with that because the favourites do not always win World Cups – injuries can make a team weak and over seven months a lot can happen,” said Pele.

“If a team’s best player is not in good shape that can cause many problems.

“I believe at the moment Brazil are the best team in the world but England have Rooney, Beckham, Gerrard, Lampard and Owen – five good attacking players – and if they are in good shape for the World Cup then they will be a strong team.

“I think Rooney is the most brilliant young player in Europe, I like him very much indeed.

“France also have good attacking players, such as Zidane and Thierry Henry, while Italy have probably the best defence in the world.”

Subscribe to World Soccer – The essential football magazine