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Explained: Why Pele never played in Europe

8:13 AM EST 12/30/22
Brazil legend Pele.
The Brazil legend only ever played for two clubs in his incredible career but there was interest from some of Europe's biggest names.
  • Pele has died at the age of 82
  • Brazilian one of the game's true greats
  • Never played in Europe

WHAT HAPPENED? Footballing legend Pele has died at the age of 82 and will be remembered across the world as a true great of the game. The Brazilian famously won the World Cup three times and scored a world record 1,281 goals in 1,363 appearances during his phenomenal career. Yet Pele only played for two clubs, Santos and New York Cosmos, in his 21-year career, and never made the move to Europe despite interest from some of the continent's top clubs.

WHICH CLUBS WANTED PELE? The Brazilian attracted interest from teams in Italy and Spain and came close to a move to Inter, according to Ronaldo Nazario. The former Inter striker has penned a letter in the Gazzetta dello Sport where he recalled a story Pele told him about a possible move to Inter.

“He [Pele] told me of when he had played at San Siro with Santos and Angelo Moratti had bought him for Inter, but he didn’t want to leave Brazil,” Ronaldo wrote. "Massimo, my president, called me to greet him and confirmed everything."

Pele also revealed the could have played for Juventus in an Instagram post to Cristiano Ronaldo when the Portuguese forward signed for the Turin giants in 2018.

"Good luck, Cristiano, for your first game with Juve. Had things worked out differently, I may have played for the Old Lady too," he wrote. "Over dinner one evening in 1961, the owner of Fiat offered the president of Santos FC a million dollars to sign me! I only played in these stripes though."

WHY DID PELE TURN DOWN REAL MADRID? Pele also revealed back in 2016 that he turned down Napoli, Man Utd and Real Madrid. The icon explained why he wanted to stay in Brazil and not head to Europe.

"There were many times when I was very close to signing with Real Madrid, and then once more with Napoli in Italy," he told USA Today. "Those weren’t the only two clubs, though. Juventus and Manchester United were also among those to try and pry Pele out of Brazil, but they all failed. It’s not a regret. I was at Santos, and at the time they were a powerhouse."


ONE LAST MOVE: Pele did finally leave Santos in 1975 for a swansong in the United States with the New York Cosmos. The icon was aged 34 and had not played competitively for eight months when he signed a three-year $2.8 million contract, making him the highest-paid athlete in the world at the time. Pele went on to score 37 goals during his time with the club and played his final game for the Cosmos against beloved former side Santos.