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“King” Pelé, the world’s first football icon

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The world of football is in mourning, “King” Pelé has passed away. Brazilian legend Edson Arantes do Nascimento, whose real name is, died of colon cancer discovered in September 2021. The former footballer had been hospitalized in Sao Paulo since the end of November. Pelé’s doctors had reported on December 21 of a “progression” of his cancer as well as “kidney and heart failure”. Faced with the evolution of his illness, his relatives gathered around him in the hospital on Christmas Eve. A moment during which the legend would have said goodbye to his two daughters and his son.

This sad news affects the whole world and particularly the Brazilians who saw their “King” go away. As with the death of Diego Maradona in Argentina, it is the idol of an entire country that rises to heaven. By his talent and his technique, Pelé will have made football fans dream and will mark several generations. If the legendary Santos FC striker only played in America, his name will have crossed the Atlantic to become a reference in Europe and the rest of the world.

Pelé, the only player to have been world champion three times

If the Europeans haven’t had the chance to see Pelé in their championships, they will have discovered him for the first time during the 1958 World Cup in Sweden. And what a first! Alongside Garrincha, considered the best player in the Brazilian selection, the young player of only 17 years old reveals his talent to the whole world. The Blues experience it in the semi-finals of this World Cup. The Santos FC striker scored a hat-trick and allowed his team to whistle in the final (5-2). It was during this final that Pelé became the youngest winner of this trophy at 17 and with style.

Against Sweden, the host country, the Brazilian legend scored twice, including one but still considered among the best in the history of the World Cup. By winning against the Scandinavians (5-2), Brazil won their first title. During this competition, the young Pelé scored six goals in just three games. Only Just Fontaine (France) with 13 goals (the record for an edition) does better. The 1958 World Cup, the start of a record series for Pelé.

Pelé declared “non-exportable national treasure”

Despite the notoriety of the young footballer who continues to grow and the interest of the biggest European clubs, the Brazilian Congress decides to declare him “Non-exportable national treasure”. Santos FC thus refuses offers from very big clubs like Real Madrid or AC Milan. Which explains why Pelé continued his career at Santos until 1974.

After splashing Europe with his talent at the World Cup in Sweden, the young Brazilian returned to the World Cup in 1962 for the second time, then only 21 years old. In Chile, during Brazil’s first match against Mexico, the Brazilian star showed his talent and scored from the first day, allowing his side to start the competition well (2-0).

However, during the next match, the striker was injured against Czechoslovakia. Unfortunately, he did not recover from this injury during the World Cup but that did not prevent Brazil from retaining their title. Second star in a row for the Seleção and Pelé.

Third World Championship title

After the disappointment of the 1966 World Cup, marked by the laxity of the referees and the treatment of opposing defenders, Pelé took a two-year break with the Brazilian selection. He returned in 1968 with the goal of the 1970 World Cup in Mexico. During this edition, Brazil appears as one of the favorites of the tournament. A confirmed favorite status.

Led by a great Pelé, the Seleção won a third star after their victory in the final against Italy (4-1). The Brazilian legend, still there, is the author of a goal and an assist. Three world champion titles for Brazil and as many for Pelé, the legend is written. In the World Cup, Pelé scored 12 goals in 14 games and registered at least one achievement in four editions.

1,281 career goals, a record

Apart from his three world titles, the only one to have done so, Pelé was nicknamed the King by all his records. The Brazilian legend has played 831 official matches for 767 goals scored. However, for Fifa, which also counts friendly matches, the Santos striker would have played 1,363 games and scored 1,281 goals throughout his career. A real goalscorer.

The statistic that makes his talent speak for itself is as follows: in total, King Pelé has scored six quintuplets, 30 quadruplets and 92 triplets. For his career rich in records, the Brazilian star received several titles to match his performances. He was named athlete of the century by the IOC, player of the 20th century by FIFA, best player at the World Cup in 1970 and FIFA Ballon d’Or d’honneur in 2013. A true example for future generations.

Neymar, in the footsteps of Pelé

Like Pelé, Neymar started professional football at an early age at Santos. Unlike the Brazilian legend, the striker quickly left for Europe to join FC Barcelona. Between the two players, apart from the club where they started their career, a common point should be emphasized: the number of goals in selection. So far, King Pelé was the only record holder with the Seleção (77 goals).

Despite the presence of big names with the Brazilian jersey, such as Ronaldo or Adriano, it is the number 10 of Paris Saint-Germain who has joined his King. And as a symbol, Pelé’s goalscoring record with the Seleção was equaled by Neymar during the World Cup in Qatar. By scoring in extra time against Croatia in the quarter-finals of the 2022 World Cup, the PSG striker rediscovered the legend as the top scorer of the Brazilian selection.

Mbappé-Pelé, crossed destinies

King Pelé is still King Pelé. But one man follows in his footsteps and his records very closely. The Brazilian legend remains today the youngest player to be crowned world champion at only 17 years and 8 months. Only, a French footballer seems to take a close interest in the King: Kylian Mbappé. By winning the World Cup in 2018, the PSG star became the third youngest player to be crowned (19 years and 6 months), behind the Brazilian and the Italian Giuseppe Bergomi (18 years and 6 months).

Better still, Pelé remains the youngest to have scored in the World Cup final against Sweden in 1958. Once again, Kylian Mbappé wanted to test himself as a legend. By scoring against Croatia in 2018, he simply became the second youngest player to find the net in a World Cup final.

But in 2022, the French star wanted to surpass his master. By scoring a triple in the final against Argentina, Kylian Mbappé became the only player in history to have scored four goals in the World Cup final. Alone, just ahead of a certain Pelé (3)… Today, the more the years have passed, the more the two men are compared. It is no longer a secret for anyone, there is great admiration between the two players.

Often they have a message for each other on Twitter. Like in early December, where the French striker wrote “Let’s pray for King Pelé”. A message to which the person replied: “Thank you Kylian Mbappé. I am happy to see that you are beating another of my recordings in this World Cup, my friend”. One thing is certain today, the two men have the same number of World Cup goals with 12 each. One leaves, the other continues to write his own story.



Europe 1

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