Many experts, journalists, footballers and managers believe Pele of Santos, New York Cosmos and Brazil to be the greatest football player in history. But is this true? Many Brazilians love Garrincha more than Pele, and so is Pele in fact, rather than the best footballer ever, the second best Brazilian ever?
Admittedly Pele has an astounding goal record; 727 goals in 786 appearances (not to mention countess assists). Garrincha's record of 244 goals in 648 appearances seems poor in comparison. Yet remember that Garrincha was not a goalscorer, but a creator.
Down the right wing Garrincha could do it all. As a result of a physical peculiarity Garrincha was able to change direction and dummy with extraordinary speed. Any left-back would struggle to tackle him, with such pace, balance and skill. Garrincha could cross superbly.
However, although goals weren't the main aspect of his game, Garrincha won the Golden Boot at the 1962 World Cup. Pele never won the World Cup Golden Boot, and only once the Silver. Pele did win the Golden Ball, but yet again so did Garrincha.
Although both played in the Brazilian League (Garrincha for Botafogo, Pele for Santos), Pele could never boast that he was at his best in the World Cup. He never wove the same wonders as he did at Santos. This is Diego Maradona's main criticism of Pele. However Garrincha was, if anything, better for Brazil. He scored some screamers at World Cups, such as the magnificent free kick vs Bulgaria, the 25-yard curler against England and the vicious drive vs Chile (with his weaker foot).
Given that Garrincha is not a goalscorer but a provider, this is very impressive. Pele cannot boast such screamers at World Cups.
Pele could not boast many other Garrincha attributes; pace, balance, skill and shot power were all unique to the little right winger. Maradona has said that if Pele had played in the Serie A or La Liga like he had we would have seen his true colours. This is true. However, after Garrincha's World Cup performances, I think he would have just continued to shine.
Garrincha, at the World Cup, had proved he could control the game at the very highest level. And, at his peak, few can argue that Garrincha was simply better than Pele.
So I would say that Garrincha does not only deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as Pele, but in the same breath as any of the all time greats.
Garrincha produced magic consistently in his time at Botafogo and, when a stroke of genius was required, he would always produce.
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