Football

Top 10: Samba kings

Brazil legends: Ronaldinho and Ronaldo (©GettyImages)
Brazil legends: Ronaldinho and Ronaldo (©GettyImages).

With Brazil all set to host the 2014 World Cup finals, they will be desperate to win the trophy for a record sixth time. 

That said, how does the current crop of stars compare to the legends? 

Here are ten of the best from the past and present:

10. Cafu

Captain of the 2002 World Cup winning side, Cafu will go down in history as one of the game’s finest full-backs. He will be remembered for his seemingly endless runs down the wing that often made it feel like his side was playing with an extra man. 

A highly successful club career saw him win one Brazilian title, two Copa Libertadores, two Serie A titles and one Champions League. 

With Brazil he was a part of both the 1994 and 2002 World Cup-winning squads.

9. Roberto Carlos

If Cafu will be remembered as one of the greatest full-backs, then Roberto Carlos will be right up there with him. 

Widely acknowledged as one of the greatest left-backs of all time, Carlos was a mainstay in the Brazil side for a number of the years. He will go down as one of Real Madrid’s greatest every players - it was, of course, his cross for that legendary Zinedine Zidane goal in the 2002 Champions League final against Bayer Leverkusen - but the moment he will be forever remembered for came wearing the yellow of Brazil. 

At the Tournoi de France - the tournament played the year before the 1998 World Cup finals - Carlos scored a truly sensational free-kick against France that is to this day still remembered as one of the best ever.

8. Socrates

He may have failed to win anything with the national side but Socrates is still remembered as one of the greatest midfielders to have ever played. 

Full of flair he was part of an 80s Brazil side that were extremely easy on the eye. 

Socrates also managed to become a doctor in medicine while still playing professional football and he was famously a heavy smoker. Despite those two things he was a well-renowned midfielder; his range of passing and vision set him apart from his fellow players.

7. Rivaldo

One of football’s great journeymen, Rivaldo has now played for over ten clubs professionally and has won numerous trophies throughout his career. 

The midfielder was of the star performers in Brazil's World Cup triumph in 2002, but it wasn’t plain sailing for the tournament. 

After a shameful display of play-acting against Turkey, Rivaldo had to win over the fans by putting in performances on the pitch - and he did just that. He was a key factor in Brazil’s victories over Belgium, England and then Germany in the final. His performances were so good in fact that coach Luiz Felipe Scolari labelled him the player of the tournament.

6. Ronaldinho

Behind the ever-present smile lurked the assassin. Ronaldinho’s constantly perky nature on pitch could never disguise his ability to destroy a team in a heartbeat. 

With a drop of his shoulder and shuffle of his feet Ronaldinho will always be one of the greatest players in a one-on-one situation. His technique, flair and general love of the game is incomparable. FIFA World Player of the Year in 2004 and 2005 and a pivotal part of Brazil’s 2002 World Cup triumph. 

With Barcelona he won two titles and a Champions League and it is unlikely we’ll ever see a player like him again.

5. Romario

One of the greatest forwards of all time, Romario played in the generation before the likes of Ronaldinho, and was the key to Brazil’s World Cup victory in 1994. 

In Brazil it is a widely held belief that Romario is one of the few players to have achieved the milestone of scoring 1000 goals. While this is a debatable figure there can be no doubting Romario’s prowess as a forward. 

In recognition for his achievements with Brazil in 1994 he was named the FIFA World Player of the Year for that year.

4. Zico

Often known as the “White Pele” Zico can consider himself extremely unlucky to have never won a World Cup. 

He was playing for Brazil in the 1980s and, while their style of play was extremely elegant, it wasn’t the country's most successful period.

Widely recognised as one of the greatest players ever, Zico was certainly one of the greatest playmakers ever to play the game, with a fantastic range of passing and an eye for a pass that few others would see. He was also a free-kick specialist with an uncanny ability to get an extreme amount of swerve on the ball.

3. Ronaldo

Few 'All-time best XIs' would be complete without the original Ronaldo. 

Often forgotten now his Portuguese namesake, Cristiano, is stealing the limelight, the Brazilian was one of the most complete forwards of all time with a truly remarkable scoring record. 

Ronaldo is still the highest goalscorer in World Cup history - with 15 - and with his closest playing rival, Miroslav Klose - who has 14 - now 34, it looks like that record could stay with him for some time. 

A natural finisher, it was no wonder that a much-fancied Brazil team failed to defeat France in the 1998 World Cup final when Ronaldo suffered a convulsive fit the night before the match, such was his importance.

He formed a deadly trio alongside Rivaldo and Ronaldinho and should never be forgotten as one of the world’s greats.

2. Garrincha

Winner of the 1958 and 1962 World Cups, Garrincha is one of the legends of Brazilian football.

Famously Garrincha was never that interested in football and was bemused following his country’s victory in the 1958 World Cup final, believing the tournament to be a league whereby everyone plays each other twice. 

Many remember the winger as one of the greatest dribblers ever and his ability to either cut inside and shoot, or take his man on, made him a nightmare for full-backs to deal with. 

Garrincha was also two-footed and had a fearsome shot so it is hardly surprising that his goalscoring record is as impressive as it is.

1. Pele

Perhaps the greatest player of all time, although it will always be impossible to compare between generations. Pele started playing for Santos at 15, Brazil at 16, and appeared in his first World Cup at 17. 

He is the only footballer ever to win three World Cups and he is Brazil’s all-time leading goalscorer. The list of awards and achievements really does go on and on with Pele. 

Some people will never accept him as the greatest ever, while some will refuse to accept anyone other than him. 

Pele is believed to have scored 1281 in 1363 games in a career spanning over two decades. Whatever your views on him as a man and as a player there can be no doubting his place as one of the greatest ever and as a true legend of the game.

A difficult list to compile with some stellar names being left out and an even trickier list to organise. People’s opinions will always differ and that is because it is tricky to compare players between generations. It shouldn’t matter, though. What should matter is appreciating this all-star cast of football legends and the contribution they made to the beautiful game. 

 

DISCLAIMER: This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeFootball Writing Academy and does not represent the views of GiveMeFootball.com or SportsNewMedia.The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. GiveMeFootball.com and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.

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Internationals
Football
World Cup

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