Long before – long long before the advent of the minute-to-minute media that spanned the continents, which developed a somewhat global informational dialect that washed the sport through its wash cycle, which partly spun into the GOAT debate, the common language was Pelé’s genius.
In 1961, with just one world title and several club trophies in his illustrious career, Brazilian President Janio Cuadros officially declared Pelé a “national treasure”, which legally confused him from being torn away from Santos to São Paulo, just like Europe. . become the epicenter of talent and resources in world football. In 1962, Pelé was injured in the second game of the World Cup and missed Brazil’s path to another title. In 1966 he was hacked kneeling opponent’s defenders so tough Brazil failed to get out of the group stage.
So by 1970, Pele’s greatness, his skill, his luxury, his improvisation were widely recognized, but with elements of fiction. The perfect scene to showcase this beyond any doubt? The World Cup that summer was broadcast live for the first time to a worldwide audience. And he showed it, especially in the final, with a resounding 4-1 victory over Italy, where he opened the scoring with picturesque title and helped close it with one of the greatest passes ever legendary sequence.
“Before the game, I said to myself: ‘He’s made of skin and bones, like everyone else,'” said Italian defender Tarcisio Burgnich, who was tasked with keeping an eye on Pele. “But I was wrong.”
Pele died on Thursday at the age of 82, and accolades poured in. Since that tournament in 1970, Pele’s incomparable iconography has only grown, thanks in no small part to those who promoted it long before.
Cristiano Ronaldo. Johan Cruyff. Franz Beckenbauer. Alfredo Di Stefano. Ferenc Puskas. Sir Bobby Charlton. Bobby Moore.
Each of them is on the shortlist of the best and most influential players in history.
Each united in his open praise of Pele.
“I refuse to classify Pele as a player. He was above that,” said Puskas, the Hungarian striker who is recognized as the best player in the sport. first international superstar and whose name still adorns the official FIFA Goal of the Year award.
“Pelé is the greatest player in the history of football and there will be only one Pelé in the world,” said Ronaldo, whose monumental personal and club success in this era has reduced his status to thin air.
“He’s the most complete player I’ve ever seen,” said Beckenbauer, the positional revolutionary who was arguably the greatest defender of all time and brought heaps of trophies to both Germany and Bayern Munich.
“Pelé was the only footballer who transcended the boundaries of logic,” said Cruyff, whose idea of “total football” reinvented the game at international level with the Netherlands and later at club level with Barcelona.
Cruyff’s main ideological successor was Pep Guardiola, whom he coached at Barça. And when Guardiola coached Barça himself, the main link to his success was Lionel Messi, whose world title earlier this month jumped him either past or shoulder to shoulder with Pelé, depending on who you ask.
We won’t rephrase it here. We won’t argue about eras or delve into which player rises above the bar the most. Just pointing out that before Pele was not a bar
No player has received the same level of praise as Pelé. Maybe it’s because this global informational dialect has become too big for its own good, with bad faith articulated just for the sake of attention and too many sluts overly eager to have their preferences confirmed, constantly diluting the good flow and keeping any player from ever. regained widespread recognition.
This is a more murky conversation. It’s clear: Pele was the greatest player among the greatest players.
“Sometimes it seems to me that football was invented for this magical player,” said Charlton, more than ever an experienced Englishman.
“The best player of all time? Pele. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are great players with specific qualities, but Pelé was better,” said Di Stefano, an Argentine-born Spaniard whose goal-scoring ability was fundamental to both Real Madrid and Real Madrid. the competition we know today as the Champions League.
“I remember [former Brazil manager João Saldanha] when asked by a Brazilian journalist who was the best goalkeeper in his team. He told Pele. This man could play in any position,” said Moore, who Pelé himself called the best defender he has ever faced.
Pelé shared the FIFA Player of the Century award with the cheeky supernova that was Diego Maradona after the latter fled with online fan voting that skewed in favor of a younger, more internet-savvy generation. FIFA intervened and interviewed a group of journalists, officials and coaches. Pele won over 70% of the vote.
Even Maradona managed to muster his own version of high praise. “It’s a shame we never got along,” Maradona said, “but he was an amazing player.”
Before Pele, the players didn’t even dare to make the bold moves we see all over the field today. Before Pele, the number 10 shirt was just another team number. Before Pele, no one was sure that “the greatest football player of all time” could exist.
After Pele, everyone agreed on who it was.
“When Pele scored the fifth goal in [the 1958 World Cup final]”, – said the Swedish defender Sigge Parling – I must be honest and say that I wanted to applaud.”
Pele just acted like that on people. Especially the best ever in his sport.