The Greatest Brazilian Footballers of All Time
- Thursday February 3rd, 2022
- Posted by: Amanda Ennes
- Category: Brazil
Even though England invented football, there is a very popular saying in Brazil, in which we refer to our homeland as the ‘country of football’ (país do futebol). Brazilians not only like to watch games and support their favorite team and athletes, but the country also produces some of the finest players. It is no coincidence many Brazilian footballers always feature among the greatest players of all time.
Football is a very important thing in Brazil. It is part of our culture. Brazil is the only team to be part of every World Cup competition ever held. It is also the only nation to ever win the World Cup five times. Moreover, a 2012 research about Brazilians’ passions stated that the top 3 things Brazilians love the most are football, beer, and Carnaval, respectively.
Read more: Why Brazilians Are Passionate About Samba, Football, And Beer?
Let’s review the greatest Brazilian footballers of all time:
Pelé is indisputably the greatest football player ever. And this is because he has great achievements in his career:
- Most career goals in football: 1,279 goals in 1,363 games (Guinness World Record).
- Youngest player to participate in, score, and win a World Cup final, at 17 years old.
- Brazil National Football Team’s top scorer: 77 goals in 92 games.
- The only player in history to win three FIFA World Cups: 1958, 1962, and 1970.
- Named Athlete of the Century by the International Olympic Committee.
- Winner of the FIFA Player of the Century.
- Participated and score in four FIFA World Cup tournaments.
Edson Arantes do Nascimento, known as Pelé, started his career at 15 and by age 16 he was already playing for the Brazil National Team as a forward. Born in 1940 and son of a footballer, Pelé gained notoriety playing for Santos, where he finished his first major tournament as a top scorer with 58 goals. He was so successful that soon powerful European clubs wanted to sign him. Nevertheless, Brazilian President Jânio Quadros declared Pelé an ‘official national treasure’ to prevent Santos to transfer him out of the country.
Pelé would only retire from Brazilian football in 1974, playing for the New York Cosmos of the United States.
Besides his FIFA World Cup championships, Pelé has also won 6 national championships, two CONMEBOL Libertadores, and several individual prizes.
At 81, Pelé is still alive, fighting colon cancer.
Read more: The 10 Most Famous Brazilian Celebrities Nowadays.
The use of nicknames is actually a common feature among Brazilian players and dates way back when. Garrincha’s real name was Manuel Francisco dos Santos, but he was frequently known as Mané Garrincha. He started his career playing for Botafogo and soon became part of the Brazil National Team. Furthermore, he was an extremely skilled dribbler.
Born in 1933, Garrincha used to play as a right-winger. He is not only recognized as one of the greatest Brazilian footballers of all time, but also one of the greatest dribblers ever. His bent legs were never a problem. Actually, some say his opponents had some difficulty knowing which way he was going to go, preventing them to take the ball from him.
Garrincha won two FIFA World Cups (1958 and 1962). He was also considered the best player and the top goal scorer in the 1962 championship. He was praised for his agility, creativity, pace, and ball control.
A heavy drinker, Garrincha died of cirrhosis in 1983, at age 49.
Born in 1946, Roberto Rivellino was known for his strong kicks, long-range shooting, accurate long passing, vision, close ball control, and dribbling skills.
He started his career as a futsal player and quickly moved on to professional football. He played for Corinthians, Fluminense, and Al Hilal.
Furthermore, Rivellino had a key role in helping the Brazil National Team to win the 1970 FIFA World Cup. He retired from football in 1981 and now works as a sports commentator.
Arthur Antunes Coimbra, or Zico, is a former football player born in 1953 who played as an attacking midfielder. He is considered one of the greatest Brazilian footballers of all time because of his creativity, technical skills, free kicks, vision, and eye for goal.
With 48 goals in 71 official games, Zico is the fifth highest goalscorer for Brazil, representing the team in three FIFA World Cups. Even though he is a football legend who played for the Brazil National Team for several years, he has never won a World Cup.
Zico started his career at Flamengo and is the biggest idol of the club until today. He helped Flamengo win 7 state championships, three national tournaments, and one CONMEBOL Libertadores.
Furthermore, Zico is also praised in Japanese football, where he worked in his last years as a professional player for Kashima Antlers. He also worked as a coach for the club.
Since 1999, Zico has been working as a football coach.
Sócrates was born in 1954 and was considered one of the greatest midfielders of his generation. He started his professional career in 1974 and was one of the football legends for Sport Club Corinthians Paulista, for whom he played from 1978 to 1984.
He was a talented and technical player, known for his great passes, precise long balls, and vision on the field. In fact, in 2004, Pelé named Sócrates in the FIFA 100 list of the world’s greatest living players.
Throughout his career, Sócrates won five state championships and played in two FIFA World Cups. Even though he has never won an international title, he served as a captain for Brazil National Team in the 1982 FIFA World Cup. He played alongside Zico, Falcão, Toninho Cerezo, and Éder. Many consider them one of the greatest Brazilian national teams ever.
Sócartes died in 2011, at 57.
Fun fact: Sócrates held a bachelor’s degree in medicine.
Born in 1966, Romário was a forward football player in Brazil, praised for his clinical finishing, having scored over 750 goals. He played for several teams in his career, including Flamengo, Vasco da Gama, Barcelona, Valencia, and Al Sadd.
As a member of the Brazil National Football Team, Romário won a silver Olympic medal, a Copa América, and a FIFA World CUP. He has also won a FIFA World Cup Golden Ball and Bronze Boot in 1994, as well as the FIFA World Player of the Year in the same year.
After retiring from football, Romário became a politician.
Ronaldo is widely considered one of the greatest players of all time. As a member of the Brazil National Team, he won two FIFA World Cups (1994 and 2002; runner-up in 1998), two Copa América, one FIFA Confederations Cup, and one Olympic bronze medal. He was also the youngest recipient of the FIFA World Player of the Year award, at 20 years old.
Born in 1976, Ronaldo started his career at Cruzeiro. He made his debut in the Brazil Nation Team at only 17, winning the championship. He quickly moved to European clubs, playing for PSV, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Real Madrid, and Milan. Furthermore, in 1997, at 21, he won the Ballon d’Or Award, given to the best football player in Europe.
Read more: The Top Brazilian Clubs: Understanding Brazilians’ Passion For Football.
Ronaldo is extremely skillful, having great vision and passing ability. He was a technical player, with excellent movement, as well as a prolific scorer.
When he made his football debut, he was called Ronaldinho. However, he later changed it to Ronaldo to distinguish himself from Ronaldinho Gaúcho, his teammate. He is also nicknamed Ronaldo Fenômeno (Phenomenon).
Today, Ronaldo is a business owner, founder of multiple companies related to football.
Some of his individual awards include:
- FIFA World Player of the Year: 1996, 1997, 2002.
- European Golden Shoe: 1996–97.
- FIFA World Cup Golden Ball: 1998.
- FIFA World Cup Golden Shoe: 2002.
- Ballon d’Or: 1997, 2002.
- FIFA World Cup Silver Ball: 2002.
- FIFA 100: 2004.
Ronaldinho Gaúcho was an attacking midfielder who played for Grêmio, Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona, Milan, the Brazil National Team, among others. He is remembered for his technical skills, creativity, dribbling ability, tricks, and ability to score.
Born in 1980, he started his professional career at Gêmio at 18. By the age of 24, he already had a FIFA World Player of the Year award, a FIFA World Cup title, and several other accolades. He was also an integral part of the 2002 FIFA World Cup-winning team, starring alongside Ronaldo and Rivaldo in an attacking trio.
Ronaldinho was a key player helping Barcelona win the 2004–05 La Liga title and the 2005–06 UEFA Champions League.
Some of his achievements include:
- FIFA World Cup: 2002
- FIFA Confederations Cup: 2005
- Olympic Bronze Medal: 2008
- Copa Libertadores: 2013
- FIFA 100: 2004
- FIFA World Player of the Year: 2004, 2005
- Ballon d’Or: 2005
- UEFA Champions League: 2005–06
Neymar is a Brazilian professional footballer who currently plays as a forward for Paris Saint-Germain and the Brazil national team. He made his professional debut at 17 playing for Santos, the same team who discovered Pelé.
In Europe, he played for Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain, helping both teams to win national championships. His abilities include playmaking skills, dribbles, tricks, creativity, vision, passing, and finishing.
At age 29, he is close to beating Pelé’s mark and becoming Brazil National Football Team’s top scorer.
Marta is a Brazilian footballer who plays as a forward. Her records are impressive:
- Brazil’s top international goalscorer (either gender): 112 goals.
- Most goals scored in the FIFA World Cup (either gender): 17 goals.
- First player to score at five FIFA World Cup (either gender).
- First female footballer to score at five consecutive Olympic Games.
- Named FIFA World Player of the Year six times: 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2018.
- Won UEFA Women’s Cup’: 2003–04.
Marta started her professional career at 14 at Vasco da Gama. Just a few years later, Sweden club Umeå IK hired her and they reached the UEFA Cup final. Since then, Marta has played for several teams, such as Los Angeles Sol, Santos, Gold Pride, Tyresö, and Rosengård.
Born in 1986, she is seen as a quick player, very technical, and skilled. She is still active, playing for the Brazil National Team and Orlando Pride.