Beloved Brazilian soccer legend Pele is undoubtedly one of the greatest ever to kick the soccer ball. The Brazilian remains the only player to have won three FIFA World Cups to this day. His first World Cup victory arrived in the 1958 World Cup in Sweden. In that tournament, Pele scored 6 goals.
The Brazilian’s second FIFA World Cup triumph arrived in the 1962 Chile World Cup. However, bad fortune struck the legend as he injured himself after scoring in the opening game against Mexico. While he remained out of action for the rest of the tournament, O Rei still ended up with a winner’s medal as his team went the distance even without him.
Pele had terrorized defenses to such an extent that the Brazilian was the subject of targeted tackling at the 1966 FIFA World Cup. After vowing to never play again post the ’66 World Cup, Pele did eventually return to the Brazil national team for the 1970 FIFA World Cup in Mexico. He went on to win the World Cup in Mexico, and also picked up the Golden Ball trophy after the event in which he netted 4 times.
Throughout his career, Pele scored 12 goals in the FIFA World Cup. Only five players since then have managed to score more goals than the soccer icon. Germans Miroslav Klose and Gerd Muller, Brazilian Ronaldo Nazario, Frenchman Just Fontaine, and Argentine legend Lionel Messi have all scored more goals than Pele in the FIFA World Cup.
Has Pele scored more goals than Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi?
Modern greats of the game have scored a lot of goals over their respective careers. Lionel Messi has the distinction of scoring the most international goals out of all South American soccer players. The 35-year-old overtook Pele as the leading South American goal scorer in international matches. The World Cup winner has scored 793 goals in his professional soccer career. He has done so in over 1000 games.
By contrast, Cristiano Ronaldo has scored over 800 official career goals. The five-time Ballon d’Or winner is one of the very few players to play over 1100 games. To be precise, the Portuguese legend has amassed 819 career goals.
According to Pele, he has scored the most career goals in soccer’s history. He claimed that he scored a whopping 1283 goals in 1366 matches. If that is taken to be accurate, then no doubt, he is the top goal scorer of all time. However, the number of times Pele has managed to find the back of the net is a hotly debated topic.
This is primarily because a lot of Pele’s goals came in unofficial games. These were exhibition games, games against U-23 sides, etc. This was because his club, Santos, would often tour different parts of the world. They made a fortune in the process, from people who invited them to play in games just so fans could see Pele play.
It is estimated that Pele played 550 unofficial games during his career. If the official game statistics are taken into account, Pele’s tally stands at less than 800 goals. This puts Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi ahead of the Brazilian.
🇧🇷 The one & only Pelé
⚽️ 1279 goals
🏆 3 FIFA World Cups
🏆 6 Brazilian league titles
🏆 2 Copa Libertadores
🎖️ FIFA Player of the Century
🎖️ TIME 100 Most Important People of the Century
🐐 The GOAT & Trailblazer #FIFAWorldCup|#Pele|#BRA pic.twitter.com/U13h7h5ssI
— FIFA World Cup Stats (@alimo_philip) December 29, 2022
However, Guinness World Records credits Pele with 1279 goals in 1363 matches. Moreover, both FIFA and his old club Santos, credit the legend with 1281 goals in 1363 matches. These are as official and as authentic as statistics can get. However, there still is a discrepancy in the differing official figures.
On the other hand, the Statistics Foundation, considered to be one of the most accurate sources for soccer statistics, disagrees. While it does list Pele with 1284 goals in 1375 games, it mentions the caveat that Pele’s official goal tally is 769. The Statistics Foundation lists Cristiano Ronaldo as the all-time top scorer in official games.
There is a reason why there is no certainty as to the accuracy of these figures. Pele played at a time when it was not easy to register statistics and tally them, not to mention, keep records. Whatever the case, if there is unanimity on anything, it’s this – O Rei was undoubtedly one of the greatest ever to kick the soccer ball.