Misconceptions about Pelé and why he has the single best claim to be considered the Greatest Footballer Of All Time

The first misconception regarding Pelé’s career is that he played in a weak league or continent. Which is simply untrue. Even the slightest bit of research indicates that South American football was on par if not superior to Europe at the time.
Brazil won the 58,62 & 70 World Cup with every single player in their squads playing club football in 🇧🇷. Brazil’s greatest ever footballers and best players of their era like Garrincha, Didi, Djalma Santos, Nilton Santos, Carlos Alberto all spend most of their career in Brazil
The entire footballing landscape was different than it is today.
There was no ‘NEED’ to move to Europe.

In the first 10 years of the Intercontinental Cup ( Now known as the Club World Cup) South American sides won 6, compared to Europe’s 4.

In fact throughout the 60’s it was Botafogo who, on paper where the best team in 🇧🇷 with great players like Didi, Garrincha, Zagallo, Nilton Santos, Jairzinho, Amarildo, Gerson, Quarentinha.

But Pelé took Santos to another level & completely dominated domestically
The 1962 Brazilian League (Taça Brasil) would be decided by a tie-break between Santos & Flamengo.

It was at the Maracanã, that Pelé led Santos to a 5-0 prompting 🇧🇷 national newspaper to write

“Never before has the Maracanã seen such football”

“Pelé proving his genius”
1963 Copa Libertadores Semi Final

A year the clubs would meet in South America’s most prestigious club tournament. Two teams stacked with insane talent. Get it was Pelé who made all the difference.
"But Pelé didn’t prove himself against European teams"

Pelé in fact played many games vs Europe’s best teams. Santos toured Europe and the World throughout the 50’s,60’s & 70’s, using Pelé’s global brand as a marketing tool to earn as much money as possible.
Often playing 3/4 games a week in different countries.

Pelé record vs European teams stands at 205 goals in 196 games.
In fact Pele’s record vs Europe’s current best teams is remarkable
The friendlies that Santos played across Europe were in fact extremely competitive games. The footage available proves this. Santos were considered the best team itw & Pelé the greatest player. An incentive for clubs determined to beat them.
Attendance records often exceeded that of normal European league games.

Santos vs Inter Milan in 1961 saw an attendance of over 110,000.

Pelé was not a striker or number 9

Contrary to popular the believe Pelé was not a striker. He played as an inside forward, who dropped deep and made up the 3rd man in midfield, playing with 2 wingers and a number 9 ahead of him. (Vavá, Coutinho, Toninho).
Pelé often dropped extremely deep to pick up the ball, and was primarily a playmaker, not a goalscorer. Very similar to what we would consider a number 10 today.

The offside rule was introduced in 1925 (Pelé born in 1940) and actually inhibited attackers more until 1990, when FIFA changed the rule to mean that attacker level with the 2nd last defender were onside, previously they were judged to be offside.

The South Americas equivalent of the UEFA Champions League was arguably the toughest continental competition in the world. So why did Pelé only win 2 in his whole career?
Pelé played in just 3 editions. Scoring 17 goals in 15 games. He won in 1962 & 1963 and in 1964 Santos lost in the semi but Pelé would still finish at top goalscorer.

The Santos board thought it better commercially to tour the a world rather than play in the Copa Libertadores.

The reality is Pelé stat padded against everyone. Whether it was in Brazil’s state leagues, the World Cup, Copa America, Cup finals or the Intercontinental Cup.

Statistically his record at the very highest level of football is unmatched.
Footage exists of Pelé running rings around Franz Beckenbauer and Bobby Moore. Two of the greatest defenders in history.

This argument holds no real weight.

Why didn’t Pelé move to Europe?

In 1961, as interest from Europe was increasing for Pelé’s signature, the Brazilian government declared the Santos no.10 a ‘national treasure’, preventing him from being transferred outside of Brazil.

One of the most popular arguments to diminish Pelé’s achievements is to say that "Anyone could have done it".

Then why then did no one else do it?
In the 1958 Campeonato Paulista Pelé was just 17, yet he finished as top goalscorer with 58 goals in 38 games!

The next highest goalscorer in the tournament was Pepe, his team-mate with 28.

Pelé would go onto finish top goalscorer in 19 different tournaments in his career.

Only 13 of Pelé’s career total of 1283 goals where scored while in the army. An extremely minute number which can be easily dismissed without any great statistical damage.

Something that is not at all really relevant.

Pelé’s Cup Final Record stands head and shoulders above everyone else in the G.O.A.T discussion.

In his career he played in 23 Cup final matches scoring 29 goals.

He scored at least once once in 69.56% of games & 42.02% of all Santos & Brazil’s Goals!

Analysis of Pelé’s goal % contribution concludes that over an 18 year career he scored a greater % of his clubs goals that both C.Ronaldo or Leo Messi.

And During his peak he was far more statically valuable from a goalscoring perspective.
Throughout his whole Santos career Pelé scored 37.8% of all Santos goals.

Compared to:

Messi: 34.8%
C.Ronaldo: 33.3%

His peak in 63 he scored an astonishing 51.9% of all Santos goals.

Messi & C.Ronaldo highest stand at 46.1% & 43.8% respectively.
The Greatest Youngster Football has Witnessed

There’s a reason why no one before or since has come close to replicating what Pelé did as a 17 year old. Because he was a talent like no other.
• He made his Santos debut aged 15

• Aged 16 he scored 41 goals in 38 games for Santos & 2 in 2 for 🇧🇷

• Aged 17 he scored 66 goals in 46 games for Santos & 9 in 7 for 🇧🇷

• Winning the World Cup, scoring 6 goals from the QF onwards.

All before he turned 18.
Aged 18 years old Pelé went to the 1959 Copa América and scored 8 goals in 5 games.

Finishing as the tournaments Top Goalscorer and Best Player.

This was the first and last Copa América Pelé would play in.
Over 60 years later and Pelé still holds the record as the youngest player & goalscorer in a World Cup Final.

Even before Pelé had turned 20, he had scored over 210 goals for Club & Country.

Between 1956-1965, aged 15 to 24 in official games for Santos (not including his European Tours), Pelé averaged at least one goal per game in 10 consecutive seasons. Totalling 463 goals in 351 club games.

In 1959 Pelé toured Europe playing a game every 3 days. In 103 games Pelé scored 127 goals aged just 18.

On the 17th June 1959 Santos would play European Champions Real Madrid at the Bernabeu, they would lose 5-3 but Pelé would score.
It was later revealed that Real Madrid had been resting players for over a week before the game, whereas Santos where in the middle of playing 19 games in 39 days.

Real Madrid would refuse to accept Santos offer of a rematch in the years that followed.
Just 11 days later Santos would travel to the Camp Nou to face a Barcelona side with Kocsis, Kubala, Suarez & Czibor.

But it wouldn’t matter. Santos hammered them 5-1, with Pelé scoring twice.
Just 2 days earlier & Santos had played Inter Milan at the San Siro.

The outcome again, similar.

Santos hammered the Italian Giants 7-1. This time, Pelé scored 4.

At his peak in the early 60’s Pelé did things that no-one has done before or since.

From 1961-63 Pelé competed in 11 tournaments, winning 10.
2 x Copa Libertadores, 1 FIFA World Cup, 2 Club World Cups, 2 Brazil Leagues, 2 x Paulista & 1 Rio-São Paulo Trophy.

Pelé would score 106 goals over a 79 game period. Incredibly scoring in 20 consecutive games. (For context Messi’s record is 11)
Overall, including European Tours, Pelé scored 176 goals in 124 games between January 1961 & December 1962.

In 1999 Pelé was voted as the single greatest Athlete of the 20th Century, both by Reuters Sports & the Official Olympic Committee.

Medical exams conducted on Pelé revealed that he was a genetic freak & comete anomaly.

Pelé's heart when he is training, beats 56 to 58 times a minute. The heart of an average athlete in training beats 90 to 95 times a minute.
Pelé's aerobic capacity is such that he can repeat a great effort within 45 seconds & his peripheral vision is 30% greater than that of the average athlete.

Pelé’s vertical leap was calculated as higher than Michael Jordan’s and he ran the 100m in under 11seconds.

In 1999 Pelé was won 72.5% of the votes from FIFA Magazine readers & the FIFA Grand Jury as the Greatest player of the century.

He also won IFFHS’s Player of the Century Award.
Pelé was not just one of the greatest footballers of all time. But one of the greatest athletes we have ever seen. And he would have only benefited further from modern training techniques and equipment. Great players and athletes could perform in any era.

Pelé dominated World Football for well over a decade. In fact no-one before or since has dominated their era like he did, or for as long as he did. He reigned supreme in an era of exceptional players.
In 2006 France Football published a reevaluation of the Ballon D’Or awards presented before 1995, when only European players were eligible to win the award. 12 out of the 39 Ballons d'Or presented during this time period would have been awarded to South American players.
Pelé has since been awarded 7 Ballon d’Ors by France Football. The first in 1958 aged 17. The last in 1970 aged 29. A 12 year difference.
France Football also conducted a vote to find out the Greatest Footballer of the Century by asking all former Ballon d’Or winners to decide.

Even amongst his peers at the top of his profession he is considered to be unrivalled.
Part of what makes current stars Messi & Ronaldo’s legacy so great is their longevity and consistency.

Pelé remember was the best footballer in the World in over 3 different decades.

Pelé wasn’t footballs first great footballer. Generations before him saw the likes of Giuseppe Meazza, Sindelar, Stanley Matthews, Alfredo Di Stefano, Dixie Dean and more. But Pelé was footballers first global superstar.
Pelé perhaps more than anyone is responsible for footballs global dominance.

The first televised World Cup was 1958. Which saw a 17 year old Pelé shock the world. 1 goal in the quarter final, 3 in the semi final & 2 in the final.
Pelé’s world-wide influence was so great that in 1967, a 48-hour ceasefire was declared in Nigeria so that Federal and Rebel troops could watch Pele play on a visit to the war-torn nation.
Pelé popularised the phrase ‘The Beautiful Game’ and is the reason why the no.10 shirt is so famous throughout world football. Pelé was the first footballer with million dollar sponsorship deals. And was the face and primary ambassador of football as it became a global force.

Pele has had an unrivalled role in revolutionising the game. Every modern skill you can think of was performed by Pele at one point or another. From the Cruyff turn, rabonas to rainbow flicks, Pele was doing it all long before anyone else.
FIFA World Cup

The greatest tournament of them all. Under the highest pressure. The weight of their country on their shoulders. A chance that only comes along every 4 years, a knockout tournament with no margin for error with the chance to change your countries history forever.
Pelé shined far brighter than anyone. And it isn’t just Pelé’s stats that stand out. Although nobody comes remotely close to 12 goals & 10 assists in 14 World Cup games. Or the fact he’s the only player ever to have won 3 World Cups. Or 3 goals and 3 assists in 2 World Cup finals

Pelé scored or assisted in 12 of his 14 World Cup games. In the two he didn’t he got injured.

Pelé’s 28 Key Passes in 1970 is only second to Cruyff in World Cup final history.

On this pitch on 5/3/1961, Pele scored the finest goal in the history of the Maracana against Fluminense.

The infamous stadium now has a plaque commemorating the moment.

When making a comparison between modern footballers and those of previous era’s you simply cannot do it directly. By judging what you see on TV today with what you see in old footage.

You have to apply context.
The human body hasn’t vastly evolved over the last 50 years. Everyone is a product of their own individual era, football players only player at a high pace now because their conditions allow it.
Modern footballers have perfect pitches, light boots, more aerodynamic footballs & rules that protect attacking players.

Pelé played on bobbly pitches, in worse boots, balls that got heavy when wet & had to deal with treatment that simply wouldn’t be acceptable in today’s game.
Think about it, if you took a modern football team, gave them worse boots, heavy kits, a bobbly pitch, less aerodynamic footballs and give defences more physical freedom - would players still do exactly what you see them do now?
Old footage has a much lower frame per second rate, making the players seem slower, more mechanical and less natural & black and white footage has been proven to give worse impressions than the exact same footage in colour.

Greatness is something impossible to truly define. But what defines greatness more so than someone legacy and impact on their sport. And Pelé stands head and shoulders above everyone in this aspect.
Ultimately Pelé’s greatness cannot be measured by goals, statistics or trophies. He is the single greatest cultural force football has ever had.

Pelé is and will always be the measure to which all other players are judged. Whether it be Maradona, Cruyff, Ronaldo or Messi.
64 years after he made his professional debut. Pele is the ultimate reference of quality and brilliance.

In 1999 Pelé was named as one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th Century by Times Magazine.

One of only three athletes to make the list. And the only footballer.
Which ever metric you use in defining GREATNESS in football Pelé comes out on top.

He has no weaknesses in his Footballing CV or overall skill-set. The single most complete, effective, efficient, natural footballer with zero holes & no flaws.

No one else can claim this.
The best player ever? Pele. [Lionel] Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are both great players with specific qualities, but Pele was better."

🗣"Pele was the most complete player I've ever seen. Two good feet. Magic in the air. Quick. Powerful. Could beat people with skill. Could outrun people. Only 5 ft 8 in tall, yet he seemed a giant of an athlete on the pitch. Perfect balance and impossible vision."- BOBBY MOORE
🗣"I sometimes feel as though football was invented for this magical player."
🗣“We went up together to head a ball. I was taller, had a better impulse. When I came back down, I looked up in astonishment. Pele was still there, in the air, heading that ball. It was like he could stay suspended for as long as he wanted to."
"When I saw Pele play, it made me feel I should hang up my boots."
🗣"The best of all was Pele, who is a mixture of Di Stefano, [Diego] Maradona, Cruyff and Leo Messi."
🗣"Pele was the only footballer who surpassed the boundaries of logic."

"We won’t work today because we’re going to see Pelé"
🗣"I arrived hoping to stop a great man, but I went away convinced I had been undone by someone who was not born on the same planet as the rest of us."
🗣"There's Pele the man, and then Pele the player. And to play like Pele is to play like God."
🗣"He is the most complete player I ever saw."
🗣Noted English football writer Geoffrey Green once declared: “Di Stefano was manufactured on earth, Pele was made in heaven.”
🗣"Pelé was more intelligent than Maradona as a player, he understood football much better" - Daniel Passarella (Argentina World Cup winning Captain)
🗣"Pelé is the most complete footballer in history" - Jorge Valdano
🗣“Pelé is football itself, football as it should be played, with intelligence, skill and in a process of continuous creation, Pelé has it all, he is an artist. A man, as football” - Bobby Charlton
🗣“Describing what Pelé was is humanly impossible, it was perfection. He unbalanced the world” - Gylmar
🗣"Pelé or Di Stefano - Pelé without a doubt, he was the best of all. Simply brilliant" - Pedro Escartín (Former FIFA Referee)
🗣"I’ll make a confession, during the 12 years I played with Pelé, I learned from his as if he were my teacher. He used to create moves that you didn’t even see players do in training. He was perfect, there was never an equal, he mastered all footballs fundamentals" - Coutinho
🗣"He is a footballing genius in its purest state. And he doesn’t diminish with age" - Raymond Kopa
🗣"A player like Pelé will only be born 1000 years from now, pay attention, I did not say they won’t, but in 1000 years" - Sándor Kocsis
🗣" Pelé is the best of all. He combined maximum talent with maximum efficiency" - Tostão
🗣"I played against him twice and I consider him more than an idol. Pelé is an authentic institution and monument of football" - Uwe Seeler
The greatest five in history are Pele, Maradona, Di Stefano, Messi and Cruyff. ”

“I don't like to put order. But if you want to know, Pelé is the greatest of all. What he did as a player is not of this world. - Menotti (Maradona’s Former Argentina/Barça manager)
Tostão & Rivera on Pelé
🗣"I told myself before the game that he was just made of skin and bones, just like everybody else. But I was wrong" - Italy defender Tarcisio Burgnich
🗣"The difficulty, the extraordinary, is not to score 1,000 goals like Pele – it’s to score one goal like Pele.”

– Carlos Drummond de Andrade, celebrated Brazilian poet
“I played for Santos, in 1968. Pele was the type who raised the level of whoever was on the same team. Watching him in training was a great experience. He was capable of unbelievable things. ”
César Luis Menotti (Former Argentina & Barcelona & Maradona manager)
🗣"Pelé was much better than anyone else, not just Maradona. Maradona was more showy for being left-handed, and left-handers, as they are fewer in number, give the feeling of doing different things"
- César Luís Menotti
🗣 ”Pelé was unbelievable, he had movements only he could manage. He looked like a cougar, a panther. Every jump! He looked like he was playing with a parachute. ”
I remember him in the 1963 Libertadores final at Bombonera. They wanted to break him”
- César Luís Menotti
🗣”I think it will take another 100 years for another Pelé to emerge"
- Didi
🗣"He should be remembered forever. Some people should be immortal. Pelé is one of them." - Manoel Maria
🗣"My name is Ronald Reagan, I’m the President of the United States of America. But you don’t need to introduce yourself, because everyone knows who Pelé is.”
🗣"In some countries they wanted to touch him, in some they wanted to kiss him. In others they even kissed the ground he walked on."
- Clodoaldo
🗣“After the fifth goal, even I wanted to cheer for him.”
Sigge Parling of Sweden on a 5-2 defeat by Brazil in the 1958 FIFA World Cup Final
🗣"Pelé was one of the few who contradicted my theory: instead of 15 minutes of fame, he will have 15 centuries.”
- Andy Warhol
🗣“His great secret was improvisation. Those things he did in one moment. He had an extraordinary perception of the game.”
- Carlos Alberto Torres
🗣"Malcolm Allison: “How do you spell Pele?”
Pat Crerand: “Easy: G-O-D.”
British television commentators during Mexico 1970
🗣"They said that when Pelé scored a goal, you thought about what you were really doing in football"
- Vladimir Onishchenko
🗣"They say perfection doesn’t exist, but Pelé came closest to it. When we lost Pelé in the 1962 World Cup it was the most frightening thing ever for us. I mean, we lost half a team, Pelé was a phenomenon” - Zito
You can follow @SelecaoTalk.
Tip: mention @twtextapp on a Twitter thread with the keyword “unroll” to get a link to it.

Latest Threads Unrolled: