A debate about soccer greats is a waste


Pelé, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

Since the beginning of the century, the world of soccer has been dominated by two players, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. These two extraordinary athletes have taken the game to another level with their ability and brilliant skills. They have secured their places in soccer’s history books already. But, for years the comparison between these two and Pelé, considered the greatest soccer player of all time, has increased drastically.

Edson Arantes do Nascimento, known as Pelé, was born on October 23, 1940, in Três Corações, Brazil. In his 22-year career, Pelé scored 1,281 goals, had 37 titles and was a three-time world champion with Brazil. “The King” was also very important to the development of the sport due to his work as a soccer ambassador. In 1980, Pelé was awarded by L’Equipe, a French newspaper, the title of the greatest athlete of the 20th century.

Lionel Andrés Messi was born on June 24, 1987, in Rosario, Argentina. Cristiano Ronaldo Aveiro dos Santos was born on February 5, 1984, in Ilha da Madeira, Portugal. From 2008 to 2018, these two players dominated the Ballon D’or, an award given to the best player in the world. Each one of them has five awards. Combined, Messi and Cristiano have 1,341 goals (682 for Cristiano, 659 for Messi), 62 titles (33 for Messi, 29 for Cristiano), and both are the all-time top-scorer for their national teams.

With all these brilliant statistics and after all the records set by these three phenomenal players, two different generations started a discussion about who is the greatest between them.

According to Pelé fans, the Brazilian can not be compared with Messi and Ronaldo because he played in a different era. During Pelé’s era, clubs and soccer complexes didn’t have the structure they have these days. The fields, facilities and even the balls did not help the players to develop their skills the way can now. Pelé was able to overcome all these difficulties. Also, between these three players, Pelé is the only one who could give his country a world title, and he did it three times. In 1958, at just 17 years old and playing his first World Cup, the Brazilian striker led his national team to win their first world title and was the best player of the tournament. This is something Ronaldo and Messi have never done.

The new generation considers Messi and Ronaldo as the greatest because the game has changed. According to them, the soccer played now is more difficult and the players are better. But, Ronaldo and Messi are in another level from them. Both of them are the all-time top scorer for two of the biggest clubs in the world (Real Madrid and Barcelona) and their national teams. They have won titles which Pelé has never won, because the Brazilian has never played in a European club. Also, none of the players who played in this century have more personal awards than these two soccer stars.

Despite all the effort the fans put in this discussion, this is a tremendous waste of time. It is impossible to compare a player who performed almost 40 years before the others. If we look at the arguments used by the two groups of fans, they explain why this debate is pointless.

It is obvious the game and technology has changed. The fact that the Brazilian never played on a European team cannot be used against him. Playing in South America, for the Brazilian team Santos, Pelé won all the tournaments a player could conquer at that time, and two of them were against big European teams. The last argument says Messi and Cristiano dominate the world of soccer for 10 years, something Pelé has done too. From 1958 to 1970, Brazil won the World Cup title three times and the striker was the main player in two of the tournaments. Also, during this period Pelé won 11 titles (national and intercontinental) with his team and scored more than 1,000 goals. So, Pelé has also dominated the sport for more than 10 years.

Therefore, a comparison between these three legends is pointless and will not add anything positive to the sport. What is really important is the fact that the most popular sport in the world has legends who can carry its legacy throughout the globe and across generations.