Zico: Pele was the greatest of all time

The former Flamengo midfielder believes his compatriot is the best player to ever grace a football field

Zico has described Goal Hall of Fame inductee Pele as “the greatest ever” and “the ultimate hero of every generation of Brazilians”.

Pele was one of the first five former players to be voted in by Goal readers last week, alongside countryman Ronaldo, Hungarian Ferenc Puskas, Argentina’s Diego Maradona and former France midfielder Zinedine Zidane.

The forward is widely acknowledged as one of the game's greatest-ever players after a stunning 14-year career with his country that saw him score 77 goals in 92 caps and win the World Cup three times in 1958, 1962 and 1970.

He also broke countless records at club level for Santos where he scored over 600 league goals and won Copa Libertadores and Intercontinental Cup titles twice each before coming out of retirement for a three-year spell with New York Cosmos. 

Zico, now a coach at Indian Super League side FC Goa, remains full of admiration for a player who, like him, wore the Brazil number 10 shirt with great distinction.

He told Goal: “No doubt, he is the greatest ever. When God built Pele, he put everything that a player needs in him. He knew how to shoot, how to dribble, how to head, be physical. He had everything that a football player needs to have. It’s difficult for someone to achieve what he has in football.

“Tactically, technically, physically, mentally he was the best. A lot of things that I learnt was from Pele’s sticker albums: how to head, how to shoot the ball. It was like a step-by-step guide. I learnt from Pele as a kid.”

That is not to say Pele was Zico’s number one idol growing up.

He added: “When I was a kid, my big hero was the number 10 of Flamengo and not the number 10 of Santos. His name was Dida. We didn’t have much knowledge about the championship in Sao Paolo or in the south of Brazil. We just knew about the championship in Rio because I am from there. But Pele played for the national team and was a hero.

“I don’t think Pele was the ultimate hero for our generation, he is the ultimate hero of every generation of Brazilians.”