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Is Pele the greatest player ever?

Pele, one of the world's favourite and most enduring football personalities, is coming to Australia.

Goal Australia are excited to promote exclusive events in Sydney and Melbourne , hosted by the voice of Australian football - Les Murray - and starring the three-time World Cup winner.  

To celebrate the arrival of a true living legend on these shores, we've been running the rule over the great man's accomplishments, achievements and legacy.

To kick off that series of features focusing on the former Brazil and Santos star, we asked the first and most important question - is Pele the greatest player in history? 

Yes - Sacha Pisani 

A new breed of challenger has threatened Pele's mantle as the world's greatest player but the Brazilian star still reigns supreme.

After years of comparisons between Pele and Diego Maradona, who carried Argentina to World Cup glory in 1986, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have burst onto the scene.

Messi - nurtured at the Camp Nou since the age of 14 - has won the World Player on the Year award on four occasions, even more amazing when you consider that was achieved in consecutive seasons.

The Argentine icon is Barcelona's all-time leading scorer (including friendlies) with 391 goals, despite his relatively young age of 27.

Throw in six La Liga titles and three UEFA Champions League titles among others, and Messi deserves the highest recognition.

The same can be said about Ronaldo, who has also scooped two World Player of the Year gongs, while he is fourth in Real Madrid's all-time scorers charts.

The Portugal captain has also won countless team honours, including four Premier League titles and two Champions League crowns.

Though there is one thing missing from the pair's growing list of achievements - a World Cup trophy.

Regarded as Argentina and Portugal's great hopes respectively, yet none have led their nations to the ultimate glory.

Pele won the showpiece event on three occasions in 1958, 1962 and 1970 - scoring in two of the three deciders - something not even Maradona could replicate.

Add to that his status as the World Player of the Century and Athlete of the Century, not to mention his tally of more than 1000 career goals and honorary Ballon d'Or, and it is easy to see why the charismatic Brazilian leaves the rest in his wake.


No - Iain Strachan

Pele may well be the most iconic player ever, but is he the greatest? His achievements on and off the field are considerable, winning the World Cup three times, the Copa Libertadores twice and the Campeonato Brasileiro six times.

The list of his individual accolades - both formal awards and personal endorsements - is longer than some novels, chief among them his status as FIFA's Player of the Century and his haul of more than 1000 career goals.

In comparison to Diego Maradona, there's no doubt the Brazilian was a 'safe' option for FIFA's list-makers, and perhaps that word - safe - sums up the only criticism which could possibly be levelled at Pele's contribution to football.

In each of the great Selecao teams he graced, Pele was one of a host of genuine, enduring stars, while he chose never to leave the comfort of Santos or South America during his prime, only later attempting to establish professional 'soccer' in North America with New York Cosmos. While brave and memorable, that experiment ultimately ended in failure.

Compare Pele's CV, the equivalent of a silver-spoon, cosseted existence as far the titans of world football are concerned, with that of Maradona, Alfredo Di Stefano and Johan Cruyff and the contrast is intriguing. 

Maradona singlehandedly dragged Argentina to World Cup success and Napoli to the Serie A title, while Di Stefano - as far as star power and on-field influence are concerned - is arguably the father of modern Spanish football, Real Madrid and the European Cup.

Cruyff meanwhile, along with his Ajax coach Rinus Michels, has perhaps had the greatest influence on modern football itself, leading the way in revolutionising the way the game is taught, played and discussed, in the stands, on the pitch, in the media and in boardrooms across Europe.

Football wouldn't be the same without their unique contributions, particularly in the case of Cruyff and Di Stefano.

Compared to these players - each iconoclasts in their own right - Pele is a cherished, popular figurehead with a career of remarkable success and longevity behind him, but not a game-changer.


Have your say  | Who do you think is the best player in the history of football? Let us know by commenting below or join the debate on our social media channels.