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Pele: The Brazilian Royalty of Ignorance

Lionel Messi needs to score 1283 goals to be considered the best of all time.

What is your initial reaction to this statement?

Do you agree? Do you disagree? Do you think this is the most ridiculous statement ever made, possibly by a supporter of Cristiano Ronaldo?

Now let me tell you that this statement, or rather challenge, was issued by none other than Brazil legend Pele.

Do you concur with Pele’s assessment?

I don’t, and here’s why...

Edson Arantes do Nascimento, or Pele as he prefers to be called, loves the spotlight. Just this week, Santos won the Copa Libertadores against Penarol. Who else would appear to hog the limelight? Pele, who else?

He took to the field, soaked up the applause from the fans, heard them chant his name – not Neymar’s who scored one of the goals – and decided that his efforts off the pitch merited a lap of honour. Rewind a year or so ago, when Robinho was loaned back to Santos. He too is an icon at the Brazilian club, but guess who had to crash the party, in a helicopter no less?

Duh, Pele!

As Robinho is presented to the adoring masses, there is someone alongside him, lingering around, much like a bad smell...Pele!!!

Whenever there is a major talking point in the world of football, Pele has to give his two cents. However, his predictions are usually wrong.

Pele apparently scored 1283 goals in his career, and more on that later, but this man seems to know nothing about football. Here’s quite possibly the best Pele quote ever:

"Nicky Barmby is up there with Zinedine Zidane, Paolo Maldini and Ronaldo."


As an Englishman, I find this hilarious, but for those outside of England, Nicky Barmby turned out to be distinctly average, and has played for Hull for the most part of his uninspiring career. I’m sure Paolo Maldini is envying Barmby’s accomplishments on his C.V.

Being part of a Pele prediction is bad enough, but in some case, it leads to tragedy. In 1994, he predicted that Colombia would win the World Cup. The result? Colombia exit in the first round and defender Andres Escobar is shot dead by a "fan". There’s also the case of Nii Lampety, but it would be harsh to include him in this considering the tribulations he has had to suffer during his life.

If previous statements are anything to go by, Lionel Messi will become the best of all time.

But let’s not take that as the only evidence; why not look at his "records".

1283 goals in 1363 games. This is the record set by Pele. Then again, his total figures include friendlies, so that takes a considerable chunk off. It also includes goals and games for Brazil, so we can take them off. And knowing Pele, it includes the overhead kick he scored in "Escape to Victory", so we can take another one off.

That leaves the total at 670 goals for Santos and New York Cosmos. But can you really count the goals he scored in the NASL? This was a tournament in a country that knew little about football then, especially at that time, and the calibre of opposition was quite frankly awful.

Crunching the numbers, that leaves us with 643 goals for Santos. Bear in mind that a lot of those are from the state championships, where some clubs are amateur or semi-professional.

In comparison, Lionel Messi has amassed 180 goals. He is 24 today. Should he go on to play another 11 seasons of football; he would need to average 42 goals per season to pass Pele. Given Lionel Messi’s record in the past three seasons, that is well within reach.

So take that Pele! ;)

What gets me most, is the insistence that Lionel Messi must exactly replicate the achievements of those before him. Lionel is widely considered to be the "New Maradona", as far as I know, he didn’t have to take cocaine and stimulants to receive this title.

Lionel Messi is more successful than the Brazilian, who only won the Copa Libertadores twice in his career, whereas Messi has won the equivalent Champions League on three occasions. In only six full seasons at Barcelona.

Pele can point to his three World Cup medals, but conveniently forgets that he only played the first two matches in one of them (1962).

Pele’s statement just shows his arrogance. He thinks that he is the best, despite never playing in Europe, and I for once agree with Diego Maradona.

Pele should go back to the museum. His records, and achievements do hold merit, but in this era, where football is more physical, more technical, and the average player is of a much higher calibre, they must be reassessed from a different angle.

Whether Lionel Messi is or could become the best of all-time is debatable, players like Zidane, Paolo Maldini, Ronaldinho and both Ronaldo’s are certainly contenders, but when I watch them play, I don’t think about whether they are the best. It’s just a shame that Pele does.

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