Brazilian legend Pele is quite possibly the most well-known player in the history of his sport.
Playing from 1956 to 1977, Pele captured hearts and minds of fans across the globe with his sensational skill on the ball and his cerebral quotes promoting peace and love.
One of the icons of the game, Pele is a part of football history and always will be, no matter whether his numbers ultimately stand the test of time. His goal haul places him among the giants of the sport.
In the wake of Pele’s passing at the age of 82, here’s a summary of the statistical accomplishments in front of net across his career, and how he contributed to the success of his clubs Santos and New York Cosmos, as well as the Brazilian national team.
PELE: The man who taught the world the Beautiful Game
Where does Pele rank for most goals in history?
Pele ranks fifth all-time for goals scored in history, scoring 757 times across his illustrious career. At least, officially.
FIFA and their record-keeping partner RSSSF (Rec.Sport.Soccer Statistics Foundation) officially credit Pele with 77 international goals and 680 goals across his club career. That leaves him fifth all-time, with Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi both above him.
Pele and the Brazilian federation, however, disagree. They claim he scored 95 goals for Brazil and 1,283 total goals across his entire professional career.
While record keeping in the modern game is much more meticulous and precise, it hasn’t always been that way. International teams often played friendlies against clubs that didn’t count on official records, while players often counted their goals with reserve sides.
As in the case of Pele, there is much disagreement over the goal tally of Josef Bican, who played in the 1930s to the 1950s. While FIFA released an article in 2020 stating that Bican scored 805 goals in his career, this is often disputed by some who believe many of his goals were scored at the reserve level.
The Czech international federation, however, believes that Bican was shortchanged, tallying his total at 821 total goals throughout his career.
MORE: Why Pele is revered as an all-time great of the sport
How many goals did Pele score?
Across his career, Pele has officially scored 757 total goals.
A total of 77 of those 757 goals came while on international duty with Brazil, including 12 in World Cup action, putting him tied for sixth all-time with young Kylian Mbappe.
Pele could have had a bigger haul in his career had he not been repeatedly injured thanks to a host of bad tackles he faced at the hands of World Cup opponents. The Brazilian legend missed the majority of the 1962 World Cup due to injuries suffered in the second game against Czechoslovakia, and then was injured again in the 1966 World Cup in which Brazil crashed out in the group stage.
Pele showed what he could do when healthy, scoring six goals in the 1958 World Cup en route to winning Brazil’s first title and claiming the Best Young Player award. Then he scored four more in 1970 as Brazil emerged victorious again.
Pele never won a World Cup golden boot award, but his hat-trick against France in the 1958 semifinal made him one of just 50 players to ever score a World Cup hat-trick.
Italian defender Tarcisio Burgnich, charged with marking Pele in the 1970 World Cup final, said after the match, “I told myself before the game, ‘he’s made of skin and bones just like everyone else,’ but I was wrong.”
MORE: What you need to know about Pele’s Netflix documentary
At the club level, Pele scored 618 goals for Santos in 636 career matches. He was the top scorer in the Brazilian top flight for the 1957 season at just 16 years old. Pele holds the record for most goals in the Sao Paulo local competition (Campeonato Paulista), scoring 58 goals in the 1958 season.
Pele led Santos to the 1962 Copa Libertadores title, and he would help defend that title in 1963 as Santos beat Boca Juniors in the final, becoming the first and only Brazilian club to date to win the Copa Libertadores on Argentine soil.
New York Cosmos
In 1975, Pele moved to the United States to play for the New York Cosmos, where he played 64 matches and scored 37 goals. He would score his final goal in his final match, a 1977 exhibition between Santos and the Cosmos, where he played one half for each club. The goal came for the Cosmos, a first-half free-kick that gave the U.S.-based club a 2-1 win.
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