The first truly global superstar. Decades before Michael Jordan, Pele established the trend of the true global superstar, with endorsement contracts the world over and become instantly synonymous with the game he played. Almost anyone that has ever heard of the sport of soccer can tell you that Pele was a Brazilian player of it. In the international world, is there are more famous Brazilian than Pele? Is there are a more famous person from The Americas than Pele?
The GOAT debates really don't do him justice. People will say that he never played in Europe, which they mean that he never played on a club team in a European league. In Pele's day, he was a global sensation that defied the parameters of league play. He played hundreds of games against top European side, and his Santos club team would tour through Europe extensively
as a traveling celebrity team, taking the best shots from every top side in Europe. The games were friendly in name only, the aura of the Brazilians and Pele himself was so tremendous when they would come into play that teams would go all-out trying to prove themselves against the world's greatest player. Pele's stats and records stand for themselves in terms of how productive he was against the best competition.
At the international level, which historically hangs on as a better record than his club performances, there is simply no more iconic player. Pele won three world cups, although was only a part of two finals, because he was injured. He won as a teenager, scoring two goals in the final at 17 years old, dazzling his way through Swedish defenders in a superb display of samba
skill that would forever become the trademark for Brazilian footballers long after Pele retired. He won the World Cup in 1970, those canary yellow jersey's of Brazil being perfect for the early days of color TV, on one of the most iconic teams of all time, scoring a goal and assisting two others in the final. His feint around the keeper in a semi-final matchup with Uruguay, which he uncharacteristically bundled, is arguably more famous than any goal he actually scored.
There is debate about how important Pele was as a citizen, he was labeled by critics for being a sell-out, someone happy to use his fame to endorse anything as long as he is being paid. However, it's hard to imagine a better overall ambassador for the game of soccer, someone who showed the entire world the kind of artistry and joy that it can bring to all people, of all classes.