Edson Arantes do Nascimento, better known simply as Pele, is a global icon who revolutionised the sport of football arguably more than anyone else in the last 80 years. Pele is not just one of the greatest footballers of all time, but one of the greatest sportspeople, and with the sad news of Pele’s recent health problems, I thought it was about time I did another video about the man they called the king of football.
My only previous video about Pele was entitled ‘7 reasons why calling Pele a fraud is ridiculous’, and I only made that video in response to a wave of disinformation that was spreading across the web and particularly on YouTube that appeared to be gaining some traction. Calling Pele a fraud is no more or less absurd than calling Jesse Owens, Michael Jordan or Muhammad Ali a fraud. That video naturally had to take a defensive stance against those throwing various unsubstantiated claims against the Brazilian, and if you want to watch that video I will leave a link to it in the description and on the end screen at the end of this video, but that’s not what this video is about.
Today’s video is much more on the offensive, taking a look at 7 all time records set by Pele within the sport that still stand. Pele began his career 64 years ago and retired 43 years ago, meaning some of the records which he set have since been broken, but many have not, and there are some which seem unlikely to ever be broken. This seven isn’t really in any particular order, and there were more than seven to choose from, but these are some of the most impressive.
Here are 7 records set by Pele that still haven’t been broken:
7. Youngest World Cup Winner
When Pele was selected by Brazil for the 1958 World Cup, aged 17, he became the youngest player to be named in a World Cup squad. When he started in Brazil’s third group game, he became the youngest player to play at a World Cup, and many more records were to tumble. Fellow Brazilian Edu beat Pele’s record as the youngest World Cup squad member in 1966, aged 16, meanwhile Norman Whiteside broke his record as the youngest player to get on the pitch at a World Cup in 1982 – also aged 17, but around six months younger than Pele had been.
In total, four players younger than Pele have been to the World Cup since 1958, but none have won the tournament, or even reached the semi-final. Pele was just 17 years and 249 days old when he started for Brazil in the 1958 World Cup final against Sweden, also becoming the youngest player to start a World Cup final, another record which is obviously yet to be beaten. Pele scored a brace in the final as Brazil defeated the tournament hosts 5-2, becoming – also, the youngest player to score in a World Cup final, another record which obviously hasn’t been beaten. Pele flew back from Sweden, aged 17, having lifted the Jules Rimet Trophy as his country’s top scorer, a quite incredible achievement.
6. Brazil’s Record Goal Scorer
Of all Pele’s records that still stand, this is the one most likely to be broken in the imminent future. Pele scored 95 goals in 114 games for Brazil, and 77 goals from 92 official caps that were recognised by FIFA. Only those in officially recognised fixtures count towards the record books, but 77 goals is still enough to make Pele Brazil’s all time leading goal scorer. Given the raft of awe-inspiringly brilliant centre-forwards that Brazil have had over the years, that is no small achievement.
In the years since, Romario has scored 55 goals from 70 caps for Brazil, meanwhile Ronaldo Luis Nazario de Lima scored 62 goals from 98 caps. That also means that Pele has the best goals per game ratio, 0.84 goals per game, of any of Brazil’s ten leading scorers. Although Pele saw off the challenges of those two all time greats, the man currently in third in Brazil’s all time scoring charts is most likely going to take his crown.
Neymar is only 28, and he has already scored 61 goals from 101 caps. Of course, Neymar’s goals per game ratio is significantly poorer than Pele’s, but the number of caps he is likely to amass will give him a superb chance of making up the current 16 goal gap between the two in the all time charts. Pele’s tally of 77 international goals makes him not just Brazil’s all time leading scorer, but the highest in terms of any South American international, and sixth in terms of the worldwide charts.
5. Most World Cup Assists
This is actually a dual record, since Pele holds the record both for the most assists in the history of the World Cup as a tournament, and also the most assists at a single World Cup finals. Pele was often described as being the complete footballer, and Bobby Moore claimed the Brazilian didn’t have a single weakness. Pele was quick, strong, tremendous on the ball, skillful, inventive and audacious. He was capable of doing the spectacular, but what sets him apart from many other legends of the game was his all-round decision making. Even as a 17-year-old, Pele possessed an extraordinary footballing IQ, and throughout his career he was among the most creative players on the planet as well as being among the most prolific.
In total, Pele made 10 assists at the World Cup finals, 7 of which came at the 1970 World Cup. Both are records, and Pele also assisted two goals in Brazil’s 1970 World Cup final against Italy, which I suspect is at least a joint record as well. The second of those two assists, his lay-off to Carlos Alberto Torres, was the perfect set-up for the perfect goal. Pele’s vision and weight of pass were among the finest the sport has seen, as that goal shows, and though his record of 10 World Cup assists is beatable, it’s pretty impressive that it has stood for this long. As far as I’m aware, the closest anyone has come to Pele’s record is Lionel Messi with six assists, and the diminutive Argentinian genius probably only has one tournament left in him.
4. Most World Cup Trophies
The World Cup has long been and is still considered the most prestigious and hallowed trophy in world football. The tournament pits the best players in the world against one another on the biggest stage of them all once every four years, and is the dream of any footballer to get their hands on that World Cup trophy. Few achieve that dream, and for those that do, it almost certainly stands as the greatest accomplishment of their playing days. To win it twice is an extremely rare achievement belonging to only 20 players in the history of the sport, and to win it three times… Well, there’s only Pele.
When Pele made his World Cup bow aged 17 in Sweden, Brazil had never won football’s most coveted trophy. When he retired from international football, 12 years later, Brazil was the most successful nation in the history of the competition. Pele won the World Cup in 1958, 1962 and 1970. In both 1958 and 1970, Pele was arguably the player of the tournament. In 1962, Pele was injured in Brazil’s second group game and missed the rest of the tournament. In Brazil’s first game, Pele had scored a goal and assisted a goal after dribbling past four defenders as Brazil won 2-0. He went into the 1962 finals in the prime of his life, and it’s a grave shame injury prevented the World Cup from seeing much of Pele at his absolute best. Only two players have won two World Cups since 1970, nevermind three, and whilst not impossible, it will take an almighty effort for someone to match, nevermind beat Pele’s World Cup winning record.
3. Most Ballon d’Ors
Hang on, I hear you say. Pele never won the Ballon d’Or, it was only open to European players up until 1995, and only became available to players playing outside of Europe altogether in 2007. Well, that is some excellent football knowledge, and I commend you for that, but there was a 2016 reevaluation of the award that some of you may have missed. In 2016, to celebrate the Ballon d’Or turning 60, France Football decided to go back and look at who would have won the most prestigious individual award in football had it been a global award since its inception. They decided that in 12 of the 39 years before non-Europeans became eligible, the winners would have been different.
The 12 new winners included Romario, Mario Kempes, Garrincha, Diego Maradona twice, and Pele seven times. Seven different players won the Ballon d’Or in 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1963, 1964 and 1970, the seven years in which Pele was elected as the would-be new winner, including the likes of Alfredo di Stefano, Denis Law and Gerd Muller. As I’m sure most of you are aware, Lionel Messi is the current Ballon d’Or record holder having won the award six times, one fewer than France Football awarded Pele in 2016. It is a distinct possibility that Messi will add to his six Ballon d’Ors, and he really ought to have won at least seven if not more already, but for the time being, taking into account the new winners, no one has been chosen by France Football more times than Pele.
2. Youngest World Cup Hat-Trick
There are multiple youngest records Pele set, particularly in terms of the 1958 World Cup, and I’ve already mentioned some of them in this video. Separate to the others though, as its own inclusion, is Pele’s 1958 World Cup hat-trick which takes second place. Pele went into the 1958 World Cup with an injury, meaning he didn’t make his tournament debut until Brazil’s final group game against the Soviet Union. He didn’t score, but he assisted a goal for Vava, which was enough to see him retain his place in the side for the quarter-final.
There, Pele scored the only goal of the game as Brazil beat Wales 1-0, but his crowning moment was to come in the semi-finals. Up against a superb France team, Pele scored a 23 minute hat-trick in a 5-2 win. It made him the youngest player to score a hat-trick at a World Cup, and no player has since come close. As far as I’m aware, no other teenager has even scored a World Cup hat-trick, with the second youngest player being Florian Albert, who was a couple of months shy of his 21st birthday when he put three goals past Bulgaria and the 1962 World Cup with Hungary. Pele went on to score a brace in the final, also making him the youngest player to score twice at the World Cup, but that’s just another record that I couldn’t squeeze into this seven.
0. Honourable Mentions
There are many records set by Pele that still stand that I didn’t have time to mention, and I’ll just give a quick nod to some of them here. Pele is still Santos’ all time record goal scorer, he is still the youngest player to score in a World Cup final, and perhaps most impressively of all, he is by far the youngest player to win two World Cups. Pele won his second World Cup in 1962 at the age of 21, which is just utterly absurd, and is maybe the Brazilians single most unlikely record to ever be broken.
1. Most Hat-Tricks
There are certain records attributed to Pele, such as the most headed goals ever scored, that are incredibly difficult to validate. One record we can validate though, and among the most impressive, is his record in terms of hat-tricks. In only fixtures officially recognised by FIFA, CONMEBOL, and all relevant governing bodies, for any of you who think this figure includes friendlies, testimonials, or kickabouts in the park, Pele scored a remarkable 92 hat-tricks.
That is a monumental tally, and 92 hat-tricks equates to 276 goals, meaning Pele scored more goals in those 92 games than most strikers score over the course of their entire careers. Among his near-century of hat-tricks, particular highlights include his previously mentioned hat-trick against France at the 1958 World Cup, his hat-trick against Argentina in the 1963 Roca Cup, and his hat-trick against Eusebio’s Benfica in the second leg of the 1962 Intercontinental Cup.
Pele also scored hat-tricks against the likes of Inter Milan, Eintracht Frankfurt, and Chile. To put Pele’s record in perspective, 35-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo currently has a career total of 56 hat-tricks, meanwhile 32-year-old Lionel Messi has 53. Both of those records are laughably brilliant, yet neither at this stage of their career are likely to be able to break Pele’s record.
Thank you all for watching today’s video, which hopefully serves as a reminder of the special footballer that was Edson Arantes do Nascimento. I suspect the comments section may break out into debates between Messi, Ronaldo, Pele, Maradona and Stuart Elliott. That’s not the aim of this video, but if you’re interested in my views on the greatest footballers of all time, a link to the 100 greatest footballers of all time will either be on your screen now or is about to be, alongside that video answering all of the nonsensical claims made by those who attempt to write off Pele’s talents and achievements. Instead of those arguments though, hopefully here we can all unite in wishing one of football’s greatest exponents a speedy recovery from his ill-health. Pele brought joy to millions and brought football forward a couple of decades on his own. He may have said some silly things over the years, but haven’t we all. Pele is a legend of the game, a true sporting icon, and will forever be the king of football.
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