A mythical figure you may have heard your grandfather wax lyrical about while trying to piece together some sort of profile through grainy YouTube clips of the first genuine superstar of the game.
What’s so interesting about the Brazilian’s career is just how strong the emotions elicited from it are.
Indeed, he won three World Cups and broke goalscoring records aplenty but, as a result of some of his comments since retiring, there is a school of thought to suggest he’s somewhat overrated.
As ever with these things, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.
Given the lack of coverage compared to what European fans can expect now, this fearsome forward from exotic South America must have appeared to be a genius though, on closer reflection, was a gifted player merely running up his goalscoring numbers in meaningless friendlies.
What cannot be doubted, however, is the fact Pele really has said some crazy things. With a list of quotations David Brent would cringe at, he’s always good for a bizarre soundbite.
So, today, this is his 80th birthday, here’s a look at some of the most ridiculous.
Making a goalkeeper cry
A man of such goalscoring prowess would indeed have been a nightmare for ‘keepers between the late-1950s and the mid-1970s but his strange claim in regards to a Senegal stopper takes this a bit too far.
When talking about a goal he scored against the Lions of Teranga, he said the man in goal cried so much and asked to be substituted after losing a big bet.
So just casually inferring the idea of a match-fixing there. Nice.
Overstating Nick Barmby
We’ve all had our fair share of footballing predictions in the past but not all of us have won 3 World Cups, so perhaps you can forgive John Q Public for his hot takes.
Pele’s confident assertion that “Nick Barmby is up there with Zinedine Zidane, Paolo Maldini and Ronaldo” is less forgivable, however.
The Big Potato in the Big Apple
Even recently, Pele’s been at it.
Looking back on his debut for New York Cosmos, he not-so-humbly bragged about the fact the club had to create extra car parking spaces to accommodate all the fans who’d arrived in their droves to watch him.
That isn’t to say he didn’t make a splash in the Big Apple but the crowbarring in of just how popular he was seems somewhat unnecessary.
Lionel Messi only has one skill
“How can you make a comparison between a guy who heads the ball well, shoots with the left, shoots with the right and another who only shoots with one leg, only has one skill and doesn’t head the ball well?’’
That was Pele’s verdict on Lionel Messi. The Lionel Messi who has scored over 700 goals for Barcelona. The Lionel Messi who has won six Ballon d’Ors.
"People always ask me: 'When is the new Pele going to be born?' Never. My father and mother have closed the factory."
Perhaps his most Brent-like quote to date, the rhetorical question really wouldn’t sound out of place in the offices of a Slough-based paper company.
‘The referee sent himself off’
Taking to Twitter, Pele once claimed that - upon sending him off in a game against Colombia - a referee was forced to give himself his marching orders as the decision proved so unpopular.
While criticising Neymar may be a fairly popular thing now, Pele’s bizarre assessment that he was just an ‘ordinary’ player did seem like an unnecessary jibe given his importance to the Selecao.
After all, Brazil just aren’t as good as they were in Pele’s day where they boasted arguably the greatest international side of all time, so comparisons between the two were always going to be unfair.
Taking the Rocket Man’s spotlight
When wishing Elton John a happy birthday through the medium of Twitter, Pele couldn’t resist making it all about himself.
Rather than keeping it short and sweet, he went on a tangent about how, after Sir Elton pointed him out in the crowd during a concert, Pele was forced to leave as the crowds started to gather.
Honestly mate. That's the most ridiculous one yet.
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