Football

Five of the best: Samba stars

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Neymar reinforced his position as Pele's heir apparent with a quite breathtaking display for Santos on Thursday evening; scoring twice and providing a further five goals in a 8-0 rout of Bolivar.

Several players have laid claim to the title of the 'new Pele' in the decades since his retirement and, although no player has been able to surpass his achievements, Brazil continue to produce sensationally gifted players at an alarming rate.

With Brazil the most decorated country in the history of the World Cup, they can boast to have produced more legends of the game than any other nation.

Neymar is certainly on course to be regarded alongside the very best Brazilian players and, as the 20-year-old continues his upwards trajectory, GMF remembers five of the best ever Samba stars.

Pele

Widely regarded as the finest player in the history of the game, Pele was a World Cup winner with Brazil aged only 17; scoring twice in a 5-2 win over Sweden in the 1958 final.

Four years later and Brazil were world champions once again, followed by a third triumph in 1970, where Pele was arguably in his pomp in a team deemed to be the most complete ever.

Over the course of a career spanning three decades, Pele found the net a quite remarkable 1282 times in 1366 appearances for Santos, New York Cosmos and Brazil.

Pele remains his country's leading ever scorer with 77 goals in 92 games, while various publications and bodies voted him the player of the 20th century.



 

Zico

Nicknamed the 'White Pele', Zico was the star of the 1982 Brazil team, which is often considered to have been the greatest side never to win the World Cup.

He also featured in the 1978 and 1986 competitions, both of which ended in disappointment for Brazil.

Zico had a formidable goalscoring record, made even more impressive due to his position as a playmaker rather than out-and-out striker, and netted 52 goals in 72 games for Brazil.

World Soccer Magazine voted Zico as their player of the year in both 1981 and 1983, while he also finished third in a poll to find Brazil's best player of the 20th century.



 

Romario

Undoubtedly the best finisher of his generation, and quite possibly the best in front of goal in the game's history, Romario was a World Cup winner with Brazil, and a born goalscorer.

Romario was awarded the Golden Ball for his exploits in Brazil's triumph 18 years ago and is his country's third highest goalscorer of all time, with 55 goals in 70 matches.

In 2007, Romario scored the 1000th goal of his career with a penalty kick for Vasco de Gama against Sport Recife, and the game had to he halted to for 20 minutes to celebrate his achievement.

But, although FIFA congratulated Romario on his milestone, they failed to recognise it as the striker included 77 goals scored in youth and unofficial matches in his overall total.



 

Ronaldo

A crippling succession of injuries may have prevented Ronaldo from realising his full potential, but he can still be regarded as, not only one of Brazil's greatest ever, but one of the best players of the modern era.

He became a World Cup winner aged 17, even though he did not play during the 1994 tournament, and was the star in France four years later, even though Brazil fell at the final hurdle.

Ronaldo scored eight goals on Brazil's way to glory in 2002, while he became the leading scorer in the history of the competition in the next tournament - registering his 15th goal to take him past Gerd Muller.

In 1997, Ronaldo had moved Barcelona to Inter Milan for a then world record fee of £19 million, before this was surpassed when he joined Real Madrid five years later for over double the amount.

Only Pele scored more goals for Brazil, with Ronaldo's record standing at 62 in 98 games.



 

Ronaldinho

Alongside Ronaldo and Rivaldo, Ronaldinho carried Samba flair into the 21st century, and took up the mantle after the former two had fallen by the wayside at international level.

Although he won the Copa America in 1999 and the World Cup three years later, Ronaldinho not always at his best for Brazil, but will be remembered more fondly for his performances with Barcelona.

Ronaldinho scored 107 goals in 254 games for Barca, as well as contributing 80 assists, while he was named FIFA World Player of the Year in both 2004 and 2005.

He left the Nou Camp a Champions League winner - joining AC Milan in July 2008 - and is playing out the latter days of his career with Flamengo.



 

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