Pelé is Number 2 in 90min’s Top 50 Footballers of All Time Series
Pelé. A name which needs no introduction. But we’ll give him a quick one anyway.
Voted as the joint-winner of the FIFA Player of the Century award, Pelé is often celebrated as the greatest footballer to have graced the planet. The insanely-talented forward epitomised everything that Brazilian football stands for: flair, technique, and flamboyant samba skills.
The Brazilian superstar’s career spanned from his debut at the age of 15 in 1956, to his final appearance in 1977. A mammoth spell at the top of the game.
And somehow, we at 90min have challenged ourselves to cherrypick five key moments in Pelé’s career, to give you all a flavour of just how brilliant he truly was – and mainly, to do the man some justice.
Well, in honour of football’s second greatest player of all time in our top 50 list- here’s to you, Pelé.
5) 1,000th Career Goal
#OnThisDay in 1969, Pele scored his 1000th goal with a penalty for Santos against Vasco da Gama.
The Vasco goalkeeper responded by taking off his jersey to reveal a shirt underneath with a message congratulating Pele on his achievement. pic.twitter.com/QMldEt53OC
— Match of the Day (@BBCMOTD) November 19, 2017
If I told you that Pelé amassed over 1,000 goals in his career, and upon achieving this monumental feat, sparked a pitch invasion and the game had to be stopped for 20 minutes – would you believe me?
Well, that’s exactly what happened. The year is 1969, and Pelé is stuck on 999 goals. After failing to hit the magic 1,000 in two matches, the triumph came at the Maracana against Vasco de Gama, when Santos earned a spot-kick. Having previously claimed that ‘a penalty is a cowardly way to score’, Pelé put those extreme emotions behind him to slot the ball home and notch number 1,000.
Cue pandemonium. Pelé just has time to kiss the ball, before teammates, opposition and fans swarm towards him and carry him on a lap of honour around the stadium. A touching moment.
The 1959 South American Championships
I scored my first ever Copa America goal on this day in 1959. It was so exciting to play at a big tournament. //Eu marquei o meu primeiro gol na Copa América neste dia, em 1959. Foi muito emocionante fazer parte de um grande campeonato e jogar contra os países vizinhos. pic.twitter.com/Gdmr4RffC1
— Pelé (@Pele) March 10, 2018
The 1959 South American Championships – or the Copa America to you and I – was the one that got away for Pelé during his illustrious career. But he doesn’t beat himself up about it. The Copa America was not the prestigious event it is nowadays, and the tournament was so poorly organised that it was hard to take it seriously.
But Pelé lit up the competition in 1959, fresh off the back of being crowned a champion of the world. Brazil somehow failed to win the South American Championships, finishing a point behind Argentina, but the teenaged superstar lit up the campaign, scoring eight goals and being named player of the tournament.
3) Copa Libertadores Success with Santos
Pelé e Coutinho se abraçam após mais um gol no Peñarol: Peixe ganhava a sua primeira Copa Libertadores, em 1962. pic.twitter.com/Tc0nK42vG5
— Fernando Campos Ribeiro (@fcribeiro1) July 30, 2019
Having won the Brazilian league title in 1961, Santos qualified for the 1962 Copa Libertadores – a competition they had never won before. That was all about to change. Santos cruised through the opening round, and edged past Universidad Católica in the semis.
Awaiting the Brazilians in the final was Uruguayan outfit Pe
The Pelé effect.
2) 17-Year-Old World Beater
Imagine rocking up to a World Cup with a secret weapon in the form of a 17-year-old. The 1958 edition saw Pelé take to the world stage as a mere teenager, but he left an everlasting mark on the sport in Sweden.
Although he missed the opening two matches through injury, Pelé made up for lost time soon after, scoring the winning goal against Wales in the quarter-finals, and completing a stunning hat-trick to defeat France in the semis.
This all built up to the big final. Could a 17-year-old starlet perform on the biggest stage in the world? Simply put – yes. Pelé produced one of the greatest goals that the World Cup has ever seen, bringing down a high cross on his chest, flicking the ball over the head of an onrushing defender, and then slamming home a clinical volley. Seventeen years old. He later doubled his tally, as Brazil won 5-2 to lift the nation’s first ever World Cup trophy.
Pelé remains the youngest player to ever participate and score in a World Cup final.
1) An Incredible 1970 World Cup
1970 #FOTD First time two former World Cup winners met in the final. Brazil defeated Italy 4-1 in Mexico City & Pele won his third World Cup pic.twitter.com/LYTeJGAHlF
— Football:On This Day (@footyonthisday) June 21, 2017
The truth is, you could pick five standout moments from Pelé’s career solely from the 1970 World Cup. Having initially refused to play for the Brazil national side in 1969, the superstar caved and helped the
90min’s ‘Top 50 Greatest Footballers of All Time’ can be found here.
Number 50: Luka Modric
Number 49: John Charles
Number 48: Hugo Sanchez
Number 47: Jairzinho
Number 46: Omar Sivori
Number 45: Paolo Rossi
Number 44: Paul Breitner
Number 43: George Weah
Number 42: Kaka
Number 41: Lev Yashin
Number 40: Gunnar Nordahl
Number 39: Kevin Keegan
Number 38: Hristo Stoichkov
Number 37: Gianluigi Buffon
Number 36: Johan Neeskens
Number 35: Xavi Hernandez
Number 34: Luis Suarez
Number 33: Karl-Heinz Rummenigge
Number 32: Andres Iniesta
Number 31: Rivelino
Number 30: Bobby Moore
Number 29: Socrates
Number 28: Sandor Kocsis
Number 27: Lothar Matthaus
Number 26: Ronaldinho
Number 25: Ruud Gullit
Number 24: Bobby Charlton
Number 23: Giuseppe Meazza
Number 22: Raymond Kopa
Number 21: Romario
Number 20: Eusebio
Number 19: Marco van Basten
Number 18: George Best
Number 17: Zico
Number 16: Franco Baresi
Number 15: Cristiano Ronaldo
Number 14: Ferenc Puskas
Number 13: Paolo Maldini
Number 12: Gerd Müller
Number 11: Mané Garrincha
Number 10: Alfredo Di Stefano
Number 9: Roberto Baggio
Number 8: Michel Platini
Number 7: Ronaldo
Number 6: Zinedine Zidane
Number 5: Johan Cruyff
Number 4: Franz Beckenbauer
Number 3: Lionel Messi