Is pele the best soccer player ? Pele enjoyed a quite extraordinary 21-year career as a professional footballer. He made his debut for Santos at the age of just 15 and, a year later, he made his debut for Brazil and became their youngest goalscorer ever, a record that still stands today.
Pele went on to play 92 times for his country, scoring 77 goals and helping them to three World Cup titles (1958, 1970 and 1974).
He also scored 1,279 goals in 1,363 games (including friendlies), before retiring from the game in 1977.
Pele is considered one of the greatest players of all-time, but who does he think are the best players to ever play the sport?
That was a question given to him by MadridistaReal back in 2020.
He replied: “Another difficult question. There will be more than 10 in my time alone. I’ll leave some to answer your question (laughs). Diego [Maradona], Alfredo [Di Stéfano], [Giovanni] Trapattoni, Garrincha, [Johan] Cruyff, [Franz] Beckenbauer, [Carlos] Alberto… [Zinedine] Zidane… Ronaldo [Nazario]… [Andres] Iniesta.”
10th September 1964: Argentinian born Spanish footballer Alfredo Di Stefano makes his first appearance for Espanol of Barcelona against Olympique of Lyon. (Photo by Central Press/Getty Images)
Pele then added two massive names to his list, as well as an up-and-coming star
“Today we are lucky. Cristiano [Ronaldo] is great. [Lionel] Messi is incredible. The future looks bright for [Kylian] Mbappé,” he added.
Pele then expanded on his selection of Real Madrid legend, Di Stefano.
He said: “Alfredo could well have been the most complete player of the era. He was fantastic. It’s a pity that there aren’t enough videos of his performances, no doubt he would be more popular. Without a doubt, it is one of the standards in what is considered the best.”
Pele also declared his countryman, Ronaldo Nazario, was the greatest number nine ever.
He said: “‘The Phenomenon’”, his nickname says it all. Ronaldo could well be the best ‘9’ of all time. He was amazing. The size, the speed, the skill, everything fluid. I haven’t seen that combination since.”
Why is Pele Considered the Best Football Player Ever
Whether in a family gathering, a bar, an office, or just a random conversation with friendly strangers, football conversations always get people talking. The biggest and most controversial of all is who is the greatest footballer of all time.
Every footballer fan has had this conversation with someone at least once in their life. In recent years, the conversation has been centered on the captivating contest between Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. New fans are starting to argue between Mbappe and Erling Haaland while older fans hold tumultuous arguments over the likes of Cruyff and the menacing Diego Maradona.
However, no matter the generation or age, the conversation gets really quiet when one Pele is mentioned. So how good was Pele, and why is he considered the best player ever? This article will look to answer those questions.
Edson Arantes do Nascimento popularly known as Pele was born on 23rd October 1940 in Três Corações, Minas Gerais, Brazil. This footballing great is the son of another Brazilian professional footballer, João Ramos do Nascimento popularly known as Dondinho. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, I guess!
He got the name Pele during his school days. The name came about as a result of the way he pronounced the name Bilé. Bilé was the goalkeeper for Pele’s local team Vasco da Gama and his favorite player. With nicknames, the more you fight them the faster they stick and Pele’s became his identity.
In his youth, Pele played in several youth teams including Sete de Setembro, Canto do Rio, São Paulinho, Bauru Athletic Club juniors, and Amériquinha. As a teenager, he played indoor football, now known as futsal, which he credits for helping him think faster and better on the spot.
He Played For 2 Clubs in His Career
In modern football, it is very rare that players remain in the same club for the entirety of their careers. It however does happen, with players such as Thomas Muller, who has been loyal only to Bayern Munich.
Pele, remained a one-club man up until he retired from professional football. That club is Brazilian giants Santos with whom he played for from age 15 in 1956 to 1974. A whole 18 years!
Pele was backed to become “the greatest football player in the world” during his tryouts to join Santos. After impressing in the tryouts, he joined Santos and made his debut on 7th September 1956 at age 15. He scored in his debut, a 7-1 victory for Santos over Corinthians de Santo André. The first of many, many goals in his brilliant career.
In 1974, Pele semi-retired from club football. Yes, you read that right, SEMI-RETIRED! What this meant is that while he was retired for all intents and purposes, he wasn’t. He continued to play for Santos occasionally in official competitive matches. I can only imagine defenders had to cross their fingers and hope he wasn’t playing when they face Santos.
In 1975, Pele came out of retirement and signed with New York Cosmos in the North American Soccer League (NASL). This was the second and final club he played for.
Guinness World Record
Throughout the entirety of his career, the legendary Pele had 1,363 games. In these appearances, he amassed 1,279 goals which are recognized as a Guinness World Record.
This tally, however, includes friendlies which is probably the fact that many of his critics use against him in support of whoever they are propping up. So let us look at how valid these so-called claims by the critics are:
A point used so often against Pele is that his tally of games and goals, which includes friendlies, makes him look way better than he actually was. There is a point to this because over 500 goals scored by Pele were in unofficial friendlies and such games do not count for modern footballers.
Also, it is claimed some of these friendlies were against weaker opponents and amateur forces who were significantly below his level. There are claims that he scored up to 8 goals in some of these games. So, let’s remove these games (friendlies) from his tally and see how he measures up against some of the best football talents such as Ronaldo and Messi.
Pele Vs Messi, Ronaldo and Neymar
If we discount friendlies, Pele scored 618 goals in 636 appearances for Santos. He scored 37 goals in 64 games for New York Cosmos and 77 goals in 92 games for Brazil. This brings the tally to 732 goals in 792 appearances for club and country.
Messi has scored 583 goals in 730 games. Cristiano Ronaldo has scored 616 goals in 847 games. Neymar has scored 336 goals in 466 games. Important to note that as of the time of writing this Messi, Ronaldo and Neymar are active players.
By calculating we find that Pele has an average of 0.924 goals per game while Messi, Ronaldo, and Neymar have 0.799, 0.727, and 0.721 goals per game respectively. So even by this metric, Pele has the trio beat!
Accolades and Achievements
As we have seen, Pele was a prolific goal scorer. So much so that in his 18 years at Santos, he was the league’s top scorer 11 times. This includes every single year from 1957 to 1965. That’s 8 years in a row! I don’t even think any player in the modern game can achieve that.
Pele also won several trophies at Santos including 10 league titles, 2 Copa Libertadores, 2 Intercontinental Cups, and several other domestic titles. At Cosmos, Pele won the 1977 Soccer Bowl.
He is Brazil’s top scorer with 77 goals. However, Neymar Jr. recently tied that record at the 2022 FIFA World Cup, and it’s only a matter of time before he breaks it.
3 Time World Cup Winner
Pele made his debut for Brazil at age 16 against Argentina in a 2-1 defeat on 7th July 1957. He scored his first goal for Brazil on that day and at 16 years and nine months, he remains Brazil’s youngest goalscorer.
Pele played in four World Cups 1958, 1962, 1966, and 1970. In those 4 he managed to win the title a record 3 times in 1958, 1962, and 1970. He is the only player in the history of the tournament who has won it 3 times.
Public and Political Influence
During his career, Pele was without a doubt the most famous athlete in the world. He probably also was the best paid at least by the standards back then. After the 1958 World Cup, the Brazilian government declared Pele a national treasure. This is following a hattrick against France in the Semi-Final and a brace against Sweden in the final to clinch the title.
In 1967, Santos FC traveled on tour to Nigeria. The tour coincided with a civil war in the country. However, a 48-hour cease-fire was called to allow everyone to have the chance to watch him live! If that is not influence, I don’t know what is!
After his move to Cosmos, Pele is credited with increasing interest in football/soccer in the country. Pele’s final game was an exhibition match in 1977 between Cosmos and Santos where he played for either side in each half. Cosmos in the first half and Santos in the second.
The game was sold-out at the Giants Stadium and was televised globally. In attendance were Muhammad Alli, Bobby Moore, and his father and wife. It rained during the game hence a headline in Brazil read; “Even the Sky Was Crying.”
Pele’s records speak for themselves and as we have seen, he has an edge over other close contenders on numbers too. But considering the time/generation he played in and the records he got, I can’t help but agree that he is the best footballer ever.
I mean football was harder or tougher back then. The ball was definitely heavier, with rougher pitches, and the game was more physical back then too. Adding this to the influence he had over the public in a world without social media and YouTube compilations and you have the best football player ever.
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