Both Pele and Maradona have been regarded as the greatest players of all time, reflecting the bitter rivalry between their two countries. They are magnificent legends who once dominated the competition. Both have impressive resumes and have competed in the prestigious World Cup. Some argue that Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are the two greatest footballers of all time, but neither has ever won the World Cup, which makes for an interesting debate.
The South American duo did not play in the same era as Ronaldo and Messi did, however due to their great skills with their feet, the comparison had to happen. Of course, statistics do not always tell the whole story, but they are still helpful metrics.
Maradona vs Pele: Who is the best?
Pele's exploits for Brazil and Santos earned him the moniker "O Rei", or "The King," as he assisted the Selecao in lighting up the football world from the late 1950s to the early 1970s. As a young player, Maradona was given the nickname "El Pibe de Oro" ("The Golden Boy"), which he kept throughout his career from the 1980s to the 1990s.
Their successful careers make us wonder who is the more notable talent. This question will be difficult to answer precisely because the two were not competing at the same time. To gain a comprehensive perspective, we can rely on statistics.
Pele vs Maradona stats
They both wore the legendary number 10 shirt, with the Brazilian doing so from 1956 to 1977 and the Argentine from 1976 to 1997. Pele fans are always bragging about how he scored 1281 goals in 1363 games.
First and foremost, it should be noted that this total is subject to considerable uncertainty. Many of these goals were scored for Santos in state and local championships against weaker opponents. Nonetheless, with 77 goals in 92 appearances for Brazil, 12 of which came in the World Cup, no one can deny Pele's incredible goalscoring skill.
Maradona, who wore the "D10S" (a word play with the number 10 that also created the word "Dios," which means "God" in Spanish), played in a free role, more as a playmaker, and his career statistics reflect 345 goals in 692 matches. He had 34 goals in 91 international games, eight in World Cups.
Did Pele and Maradona play in the same position?
It should be noted once more that Pele and Maradona played in different positions. Pele was frequently deployed in a more advanced position, whereas Maradona was a much more traditional playmaker, which explains the large goal difference.
Again, perhaps we shouldn't put too much stock in goal statistics. Some of the most prolific goal scorers in history have not always been at their best in big games. Alberto Gilardino has an exemplary record for Milan, but he always struggled to score against the top teams or in important matches, as Italian football fans are aware.
The Argentine has a history of frequently changing clubs. He has played for a variety of teams, including Argentinos Juniors, Boca Juniors, Napoli, and Barcelona.
We must also admit that Diego Maradona's style of play had to evolve much while playing in Italy's Serie A and Spain's Primera Division. These tournaments attract many strong defensive squads with strong and tough defenders.
Maradona vs Pele: comparison in World Cup
|Goals per game||0.86||0.38|
Pele competed in four World Cups, winning three of them (in 1958, 1962, and 1970), a record that has yet to be broken. In 1958, he was only 17 years old when he became world champion for the first time in Sweden, scoring six goals, two of which were in the final.
Pele was injured in the second match of the 1962 World Cup, but his magical team won the third title in 1970, defeating Italy in the final in Mexico City and enthralling fans worldwide.
The Argentine played in four World Cups, winning two, in 1978 and 1986. His infamous "Hand of God" goal against England in 1986 was followed by a superb individual effort, which many consider being the greatest goal ever scored. He scored twice in the semi-final victory over Belgium and provided the crucial pass for the winner in the final 3-2 defeat of West Germany.
World Cup glory
Of course, team prizes, the most important of which is the World Cup, are very important, but judging a player solely on the trophies they have won may not tell the whole story. Pele was a young 17-year-old in 1958, barely made an impact due to injury in 1962 and 1966, and in 1970, despite his fine performances, he was playing in the best football team of all time alongside Tostao, Rivelino, Gerson, and Jairzinho.
Conversely, Maradona led Argentina to World Cup glory in 1986, scoring the greatest goal of all time against England in the quarter-finals and another nearly as brilliant against Belgium in the semi-finals.
Brazil would have won the 1970 World Cup with or without Pele, as has been stated numerous times in the past. Argentina probably would not have advanced past Enzo Francescoli's Copa America holders Uruguay in the second round without Maradona. However, this does not necessarily make Maradona a better player.
Who has more awards between Pele and Maradona?
When it comes to individual awards, Pele and Maradona are very close. Both players won the World Cup Golden Ball and were named FIFA's Players of the Century. France Football bestowed an honorary Ballon d'Or on each player, but Pele was deemed the 'alternative winner' of seven Ballon d'Or trophies in 2016, whereas Maradona was the 'alternative winner' twice.
The Argentine was named South American Footballer of the Year twice, but Pele never received the award because it was created in the 1970s. Pele was named the best player in the old South American Championship (now Copa America) in 1959, in addition to winning the Golden Ball in 1970. Over the years, both players have received a slew of unofficial individual awards and magazine accolades.
Pele vs Maradona: titles
Pele triumphed once more in this regard. He had a successful club and country career in all areas. Diego Maradona also has clinched a number of titles in his home country and throughout Europe. A table comparison of the two is provided below.
|FIFA World Youth Championship||0||1|
Who is better, Pele or Maradona?
There is a school of thought that believes the Brazilian is the greatest because Maradona is a poor role model. Diego's substance abuse, as well as the fact that he 'cheated' with his 'hand of God' goal against England in 1986, don't help his case. Regardless of how poorly the Argentine behaved off the field or how much he bent the rules on it, his greatness as a player is unaffected.
Pele is also no angel. Some would argue that he is worse than Maradona as a member of the "FIFA Family" alongside Sepp Blatter, Joao Havelange, and others. Politics is the disease of football, as evidenced by the annual shortlist for the FIFA World Player of the Year.
Pele vs Maradona: achievements after retirement
Maradona took over as Argentina's coach for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Pele was named a United Nations Environment and Ecology Ambassador. In 1995, he received Brazil's Gold Medal for outstanding services to sport and was named a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador. Maradona died in his sleep at his home in Dique Luján, Buenos Aires Province, Argentina, on November 25, 2020, at age 60.
Choosing between Pele and Maradona when it comes to the greatest football player is a matter of personal preference. Many people choose Maradona because they have never seen Pele play football in person, and vice versa. As a result, the underground war between the two stars rages on to this day, and it doesn't seem like the Maradona vs Pele debate will end any time soon.
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Source: Sports Brief News