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International

‘Greatest of All Time’: Pelé as Described by His Peers

December 30, 2022

Pele has been praised over the decades by everyone from world leaders to artists. Here are superlatives from over the years about Pele, who died Thursday in Brazil at age 82:

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“To watch him play was to watch the delight of a child combined with the extraordinary grace of a man in full.” — Nelson Mandela.

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“I told myself before the game, he’s made of skin and bones just like everyone else — but I was wrong.” — Italy’s Tarcisio Burgnich, after playing against Pele in the 1970 World Cup Final.

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“Pelé was one of the few who contradicted my theory: Instead of 15 minutes of fame, he will have 15 centuries.” — Andy Warhol.

FILE – Artist Andy Warhol, left, chats wth soccer superstar Pele about a portrait he is making of him, July 26, 1977, New York. (AP Photo/Claudia Larson, File)

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“I sometimes feel as though football was invented for this magical player.” — Sir Bobby Charlton, retired England great who won 1966 World Cup and Ballon d’Or in same year.

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“Pelé was the only footballer who surpassed the boundaries of logic.” — Johan Cruyff, the late Dutch star and standout manager who won the Ballon d’Or three times.

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“He is the most complete player I ever saw.” — Retired German great Franz Beckenbauer.

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“If you take the qualities of Cristiano Ronaldo and (Lionel) Messi, put them together, then you’d have a player to compare to Pelé!” — Retired Brazil forward Tostao.

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“The best player ever? Pelé. (Lionel) Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are both great players with specific qualities, but Pelé was better.” — Alfredo Di Stefano, the late Argentine star for Real Madrid.

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“His great secret was improvisation. Those things he did were in one moment. He had an extraordinary perception of the game.” — Brazil defender Carlos Alberto Torres.

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“This debate about the player of the century is absurd. There’s only one possible answer: Pelé. He’s the greatest player of all time, and by some distance, I might add.” — Retired Brazil star Zico.

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“The greatest player in history was Di Stefano. I refuse to classify Pelé as a player. He was above that.” — Hungary star Ferenc Puskas.

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“We went up together to head a ball. I was taller, had a better impulse. When I came back down, I looked up in astonishment. Pelé was still there, in the air, heading that ball. It was like he could stay suspended for as long as he wanted to.” — Italy defender Giacinto Facchetti.

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“When I saw Pelé play, it made me feel I should hang up my boots.” — Just Fontaine, the Morocco-born French star who scored 13 goals in six games in the 1958 World Cup.

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“The moment the ball arrived at Pelé’s feet, football transformed into poetry.” — Italian poet Pier Paolo Pasolini.

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“The difficulty, the extraordinary, is not to score 1,000 goals like Pelé — it’s to score one goal like Pelé.” — Carlos Drummond de Andrade, Brazilian poet.

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“Pelé was the most complete player I’ve ever seen. Two good feet. Magic in the air. Quick. Powerful. Could beat people with skill. Could outrun people. Only 5-feet-8 inches tall, yet he seemed a giant of an athlete on the pitch. Perfect balance and impossible vision.” — Bobby Moore, captain of the 1966 World Cup champion team from England.

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“I arrived hoping to stop a great man, but I went away convinced I had been undone by someone who was not born on the same planet as the rest of us.” — Benfica goalkeeper Costa Pereira after 5-2 loss to Santos.

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“There’s Pelé the man, and then Pelé the player. And to play like Pelé is to play like God.” — Retired France star and three-time Ballon d’Or winner Michel Platini.

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“Pelé is the greatest player in football history, and there will only be one Pelé in the world.” — Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal star forward.

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Sources: Goal.com, FIFA.com, AP research.

 

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