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Pele - Edson Arantes Do Nascimento

Current Club: None.
Previous Clubs: New York Cosmos, Santos.
Loan Clubs: None.

International: Brazil 92 caps 77 goals.
Trophies Won: FIFA World Cup 1958, 1962, 1970, Copa Libertadores 1962, 1963, Intercontinental Cup 1962, 1963, Campeonato Brasileiro Serie A 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1968, Torneio Rio-Sao Paulo 1959, 1963, 1964, Campeonato Paulista 1958, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1973, NASL Soccer Bowl 1977.

Widely acknowledged as the greatest player of all time, Pele is a standout example of quality even now. He does have an edge over his main competition, Lionel Messi and Diego Maradona, in that he is excellent with both feet and in the air, which neither of those Argentine contenders can claim. Pele was blessed with the physical gifts of blistering pace and huge leap, which made up for his lack of height, as he could usually jump above any defender to reach a header. When that pace was added to his excellent close control, it made it almost impossible to stop, by fair means at least.

Pele was playing in an era of no yellow cards or substitutions and so had to face brutal treatment of a kind no player since has ever suffered. After being kicked so much during the 1966 World Cup, without a single free kick being given, Pele had to be persuaded to ever play for his country again. He was literally kicked off the pitch in the opening game, with injuries bad enough to put him out of the second game. The 3rd game was little better, as he was targeted for brutal treatment of a kind that would make the hardest Uruguayan hatchet man wince.

When Pele was in full flow he could be impossible to stop, even hacking him would just see him bounce back up to get on the ball before anyone else could get to it. His balance was phenomenal, he could slalom through packed defences so quickly they did not have time to respond. The big problem for the defenders was that he was also an excellent passer of the ball, with great vision, fully capable of drawing them in and releasing a teammate with a through ball. In the terms of attacking, Pele was as close to complete as it is possible to get.

Even his workrate was incredible, he was always working hard, even after training he would continue working on his game while his teammates were on the beach relaxing. Pele could be a fantastic creative playmaker on the ball or a devastating goalscorer, but he was not a Garrincha type of player who beat players for fun, Pele was about an end product. It was often said Garrincha would beat players because he wanted to while Pele would beat them because he had to. Everything Pele did was with intent to get a chance at goal for someone on his team, there was never anything done just for the sake of doing it.

Ferenc Puskas said once, "the greatest player in history was Di Stefano. I refuse to classify Pele as a player. He was above that." But Bobby Moore best summed up Pele: "Pele was the most complete player I've ever seen, he had everything. Two good feet. Magic in the air. Quick. Powerful. Could beat people with skill. Could outrun people. Only five feet and eight inches tall, yet he seemed a giant of an athlete on the pitch. Perfect balance and impossible vision. He was the greatest because he could do anything and everything on a football pitch. I remember Saldhana the coach being asked by a Brazilian journalist who was the best goalkeeper in his squad. He said Pele. The man could play any position."

For the accompanying Legends of the Game article on Pele, click HERE

Pele was also a free kick specialist, deadly on anything on the edge of the box, even in his final ever game, where he added a goal from a free kick in the first half to delight the crowd. It is easy to see why many consider him the complete player, he really could do just about anything with the ball. His shots, whether from free kicks or open play, would often be what became known as banana shots, with a curve to allow it to go around walls or despairing goalkeepers diving in an attempt to save them.

Was Pele the greatest player of all time? Who knows, what I do know is he was incredibly fast, had a great leap with accurate heading ability, could hit a hard, accurate shot with either foot, fantastic balance, magnificent close control, superb vision, excellent range of precise passing, brilliant workrate, great anticipation and was a genuine team player. He played with a heavy old ball on terrible pitches, but still looked quality, despite being hammered by the opposition with the kind of challenges that would be considered assaults rather than tackles in the modern era. Even Diego Maradona admits he was an awesome player, despite the pair always being at each other's throats.