Born: Tres Coracoes 23 October 1940
Club(s): Santos, New York Cosmos
International Caps: 92
International Goals: 77
After debuting for Brazil as a 16 year old in 1956, two years later Edson Arantes do Nascimento became famous for being the youngest ever player to play in the finals of the World Cup. In the Quarter Finals he scored his first goal and in doing so became the youngest to score in the World Cup finals, the winner in a 1-0 victory against Wales. In the semi-final, he scored a hat-trick against France and in the final Pele scored twice with arguably his most famous ever goal of his 1000 plus scored flicking the ball over a Swedish defender before volleying low in to the corner.
After that, the title of best footballer in the world was a formality.
Pele was fast, had great feet, could beat a player, or two, could leap beyond his 5ft8in height and was famous for scoring overhead kicks. In fact Pele scored every type of goals, from headers and tap ins to twenty yard drives and mazy dribbles that made him the complete forward of his generation. In fact today, Pele would still be the best, because he was the complete package.
Surprisingly he could even play in goal and often deputised in the days before substitutes, even for the national team he was that good.
What Pele achieved for Brazil was three World Cup titles although he didn’t feature in the 1962 final through injury, he scored in the final of 1970 scoring the opening goal against Italy and setting up the last for Carlos Alberto which is still today regarded by many as one of the greatest team goals ever seen. Fitting testament to a true team player.
At Santos, Pele won 2 Libertadores, 6 Brazilian Championships and 10 Paulista Championships amongst many others. He never played in Europe but toured frequently with his team as the brand of Pele and Santos became known globally – everybody seemed to want a piece.
In his latter years Pele would move to New York Cosmos and was a key instigator of the success of the North American Soccer League which eventually lead to the MLS we know today.
Pele since retiring is a global ambassador for the sport and will be remembered for scoring over 1200 career goals which is a Guinness World Record. The best ever? Diego Maradona fans may dispute that but the Brazilian is certainly always considered in the top two.