Often imitated, never duplicated. Edison Arantes do Nascimento or “Pele” as he is more famously known, is described by many experts, fans and players as the greatest footballer of all time.
Born in Tres Coracoes, Brazil in 1940, Pele began playing for Brazilian club Santos before he was even 16-years-old. Pele was scouted by former Brazil international, Waldemar de Brito who demanded that the directors of Santos sign the 15-year-old, claiming he would become the greatest player in the world.
Pele signed a professional contract with Santos in 1956 and gained media attention with the press in Brazil branding the youngster as a future superstar of world football.' The young forward made his debut later that year against Corinthians and scored the first goal of his career in a 7-1 win.
Pele played in his first major tournament for Brazil in 1958 at the World Cup in Sweden. Six goals from the 17-year-old including two in the final ensured the South Americans became world champions for the first time in the country's history.
Pele also won his first major title with Santos that same year as the club won the Compeonato Paulista with the youngster finishing as the tournament's top scorer with an amazing 58 goals. Pele would also help his side win the Copa Libertadores in 1962 and '63, the most prestigious club competition in the country. Even without their star player due to injury in the second match, Brazil still managed to retain the World Cup in 1962.
Following the tournament, many top European clubs such as Real Madrid, Juventus and Manchester United attempted to sign the world's greatest player, however any approach to transfer Pele to Europe was countered when the government of Brazil declared the forward as a national treasure in order to prevent any move taking place.
1966 would prove to be a disappointing year for Pele at club and country level. Santos failed to retain the Taca Brasil, losing out to Cruzeiro in the final round. Brazil were eliminated in the first round of the World Cup, Pele scored just one goal in the tournament and was brutally fouled continuously against Bulgaria and Portugal.
Although Santos won three Campeonato Paulista in a row from 1967-69, Pele's influence in the team became less and less important to the club's now-limited success. In 1969, Pele scored his much-anticipated 1000th goal of his career in all competitions. The goal, known as O Milesimo (The Thousandth), occurred in a match against Vasco da Gama when the Brazilian forward scored a penalty kick, at the famous Maracana Stadium.
Often claimed to be the greatest football side of all time, the 1970 Brazil World Cup team included the likes of Carlos Alberto, Rivelino, Tostao, Gerson, Clodoaldo, Jairzinho and of course in the famous No.10 for the Selecao, Pele. The legendary forward scored four goals for his country en route to the final in Mexico where he then scored the first of four goals as Brazil defeated Italy 4-1 to become world champions for a third time, thus keeping the Jules Rimet trophy indefinitely.
Pele was named player of the tournament once again proving what a player he was. In 1974, Pele left his beloved club Santos after 18 years to play for the New York Cosmos where he would see out the remainder of his career.
Pele's last international match was against Yugoslavia in 1971. He is still Brazil's top goal scorer to date with 77 goals from 92 caps for his country. German legend Franz Beckenbauer once stated: ''Pele is the greatest player of all time. He reigned supreme for 20 years. All the others- Diego Maradona, Johan Cruyff, Michel Platini- rank beneath him. There's no one to compare with Pele.''
Since his retirement in 1977, Pele has been a worldwide ambassador for the sport and is currently the Honorary President for his former club, the New York Cosmos. Pele is the only player to hold three World Cup medals as well as winning an incredible 40 official titles during his playing career. The former Santos striker is no doubt a hero not only in his homeland of Brazil, but also across the globe. Pele was the first ever superstar to grace the beautiful game and during his playing career he certainly more than lived up to this moniker by scoring more than 1,200 career goals.
Not matter the generation, everyone knows that Pele's contribution to football has made the Brazilian one of the most recognisable sportsman of all time.
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