Pelé is way overrated as a scorer

Discussion in 'The Beautiful Game' started by lessthanjake, Jan 23, 2016.

  1. lessthanjake

    lessthanjake Member+

    May 9, 2015
    FC Barcelona
    I wrote the vast majority of this out on the Messi/CR7 thread, but I think it got lost amongst a sea of posts on that thread and it is a point worthy of its own thread.

    I think Pelé's stats are overblown. When one delves into the context of Pelé's scoring it becomes less and less impressive.

    1. Santos was a hilariously stacked team compared to the league they were in.

    Santos was playing in a regional league within Brazil. This meant that every player in the league was Brazilian, but the league did not contain all of the talent within Brazil. Rather, it only contained a fraction of it. Brazil was in a golden age, so this by itself doesn't necessarily show that it was a weak league, and that's not what I'm trying to prove. But consider this:

    Look at Brazil's squad in the various World Cups of that era. Compare how many of Brazil's players played on Santos to how many played on every other Paulista team combined. By my count, there were 7 Santos players on the 1962 squad, and the ENTIRE rest of the Paulista contributed only 6 players. There were 6 Santos players in 1966, and the entire rest of the Paulista had 7 players. In 1970, Santos had 5 players on the squad, while the rest of the Paulista had 6. Even in 1958, when many of Santos' best players had not yet established themselves in the NT (and many of them soon would), they still tied for most players in the Paulista on the team. And many of the Santos players who weren't getting called up to the NT for the World Cup were still capped in their career. For instance, take a look at the 1962 Copa Libertadores Finals lineup for Santos. At least 9 of their 11 players were capped on multiple occasions by Brazil.

    When you are talking about a league only made up of Brazilians, players who are getting called up for Brazil's World Cup squad are, by definition, the top 1 or 2 players in the league at their position. If they weren't they wouldn't be one of the couple players called up for Brazil at their position. This is especially true in a regional league that only includes about half of Brazil's top talent (meaning there's a good chance someone's the only Paulista player called up at his position). So basically, we're talking about a team that essentially had the best player in the league at most positions, along with having a bunch of players close to that level (i.e. players who got a bunch of Brazil caps but weren't on the WC squad are still surely one of the top few players at their position in an all Brazilian regional league).

    Simply put, Santos was outrageously talented compared to their league. This obviously makes scoring tons of goals easier.

    2. Not surprisingly, Santos did in fact score tons of goals
    As I have detailed in the Gerd Müller thread, from 1957 to 1969, Santos scored 3.14 goals per league match. This is a fair margin higher than even the scoring of present-day Barcelona and Real Madrid. It's significantly higher than the scoring of the team of pretty much any other top scorer in history.

    And this gets more pronounced when you look at Pelé's best scoring era: specifically, 1957 to 1965. In that era, Santos averaged 3.4 goals a match. That is a ridiculous goal haul for a team, but it shouldn't be surprising given how stacked Santos was compared to its opponents. It all indicates Pelé's scoring should be taken with a bit of a grain of salt.

    3. A random player scored just like Pelé when Pelé was out
    To add more evidence to the fact that Pelé's goalscoring was perhaps a good deal the product of Santos' overall greatness, we have the case of Toninho Guerreiro.

    In 1966, Pelé spent a lot of the season injured. At that point, the primary goal scorer for Santos became a guy named Toninho Guerreiro. This is a guy who managed to get 1 cap for Brazil in his entire career. So he wasn't completely terrible, but we're not talking about a particularly great player. In that 1966 season, Toninho scored 60 goals (including goals in friendlies) according to Santos. This included 27 goals in the 28-game Paulista season (and he likely didn't play all 28 games), as well as 10 goals in Santos' 5 Taça Brasil matches. He was top scorer in both those competitions (which were Santos' two primary competitions at the time). Those 60 goals were pretty well in line with most of Pelé's scoring in the years surrounding that. Aside from a spike in 1965, Pelé scored between 55 and 67 goals every other season between 1963 and 1969. So basically, with Pelé dealing with injuries and out for a lot of the season, the goalscoring focus shifted to a player who only received one career NT cap, and that player basically replicated Pelé's scoring.

    Moreover, Toninho actually outscored Pelé in 1968, bagging 76 goals for Santos. That was a higher goal haul than Pelé ever got from 1964 through the end of his career (i.e. higher than Pelé managed in the era in which Toninho did it), and it was higher than all but 4 of Pelé's seasons overall (which all came during Santos' peak period of goalscoring, as detailed above).

    4. Pelé did not score that much in Brazil-wide competition
    One knock on Pelé's scoring that I have alluded to is that it happened in a regional league. Pelé supporters claim that the regional league was very strong and his goals there should be taken quite seriously. One problem for Pelé, though, is that he did actually play in Brazil outside the regional league. In fact, he played in the early Brasileiro as well the various Brazil-wide precursors to it.

    In those Brazil-wide competitions (specifically, the Taca Brasil, the Torneio Roberto Gomes Pedrosa, and the Brasileiro), Pelé only scored 100 goals in 173 matches (0.58 goals a match). Not a bad goal haul, especially since a Brazil-wide competition in that era was surely quite strong. But it's extremely far away from his overall scoring and certainly indicates his massive scoring was partially a product of being on a dominant team in a regional league. I should note that we could also include the Torneio Rio-Sao Paolo. It wasn't a Brazil-wide tournament, but it was contested between probably the two most major regions. If you add that, as well as his scoring in the Copa Libertadores and the Intercontinental Cup, he got 173 goals in 244 matches (0.71 goals a match). Again, this is a good scoring rate, but it is far away from placing him as the most prolific scorer ever.

    5. Pelé's scoring rapidly declined when Santos became less elite
    If you look at Pelé's scoring, it had a rapid decline after the 1969 season. Specifically, he went from getting 38 goals in 37 competitive matches in 1969 to getting 11 goals in 28 matches the next season and 9 goals in 40 matches the season after that. Though he did manage to put together a good 1973 season, the fact is that Pelé had an extremely large precipitous drop off in scoring starting in 1970 that he never came back from. Why did this happen?

    Well, up until 1969, Santos was absolutely filled with Brazilian internationals. While Pelé was at Santos, they had 13 players who made Brazil's World Cup squad in that era, as well as at least 4 other players who were otherwise capped by Brazil. As I argued above, this basically made them an all-star team in a league that only had Brazilians. But after the 1969 season, SIX of those Brazil internationals left or retired. So, in 1970, Santos suddenly only had 3 other Brazil internationals on the team. They were no longer an all star team, but rather just a very good team. And Pelé's production suddenly became pretty mediocre. I don't think this is a coincidence.

    It should also be noted that Santos also abruptly stopped winning virtually anything after that 1969 season. In Pelé's last 5 seasons with Santos, they only won 1 title: a Paulista title in 1973 after the Brasileiro had already become the biggest competition. Once he no longer had a team that was wildly more talented than everyone else (still had 4 Brazil internationals on the team, though, so they were still quite talented), Pelé stopped scoring much and his team stopped being particularly successful.

    6. Pelé's NT scoring is not THAT impressive

    The obvious retort to everything I've said thus far is that Pelé demonstrated his great scoring on the Brazilian NT. To a large degree that is true. 77 goals in 92 caps (0.84 goals a match) is a very nice scoring haul. However, a few things are worth noting about this.

    First of all, while that is still a high scoring haul, it is quite significantly below his scoring rate for Santos in the years he was capped. He was capped from 1957 to 1971. In those same years, he scored 1.08 goals per competitive match for Santos. So, even at face value, his NT scoring lags significantly behind his club scoring.

    Second of all, he played during Brazil's golden age. We are talking about a team that scored 12 goals in 4 matches without Pelé in the 1962 World Cup. They won every KO stage match by 2 goals! It's gotta be a whole lot easier than normal to score while on a team that is capable of easily waltzing through the World Cup KO stages without you even playing. Moreover, the 1970 Brazil team is generally seen as the greatest NT ever, and possibly the greatest team ever in general. We are talking about a team that scored 19 goals in 6 matches, with only 4 of them from Pelé. Again, if your team can score that much, it's surely far easier than normal for you to score goals. The 1958 team scored tons of goals too (16 goals in 6 matches), though a decent portion of those were from Pelé himself. The general point is that we are talking about a team that absolutely dominated the world stage in that era in a way we haven't really seen otherwise. They scored tons with Pelé but they also scored tons and won easily without him. That is clearly an easier context in which to score lots of goals.

    Third, not only was Brazil incredibly good in this era, but it was an incredibly high scoring NT era. From the 1974 World Cup onwards, scoring in the World Cup has ranged from 2.21 total goals a match to 2.81 total goals a match. The average in those past 11 World Cups was 2.54 goals a match. NT scoring was higher in Pelé's era. The 1958 World Cup had 3.6 goals a match. It was 2.78 in 1962 and 1966, and 2.97 in 1970. That is an average of 3.03 goals a match in the overall era in which Pelé played for Brazil. This is a pretty significant difference. Pelé's era had about 20% more goals scored than NT football has averaged since then. If you adjusted Pelé's goalscoring for Brazil down, just to be in line with general scoring norms in the post-1970 era, he'd only average about 0.70 goals a match for Brazil.

    Fourth, and unsurprisingly given the above two points, there are other much less heralded players for Brazil who scored lots of goals in that era. A very good example of this is Vavá. When Pelé went down in the 1962 World Cup, Vava became the main goalscoring threat. He proceeded to score 4 goals in 4 matches. Vava also scored 5 goals in 4 matches in the 1958 World Cup. Overall, Vava got 9 goals in 10 World Cup matches for Brazil (0.9 goals a match). That compares well with Pelé's 12 goals in 14 World Cup matches for Brazil (0.86 goals a match). Overall, Vava managed 15 goals in 20 caps for Brazil (0.75 goals a match), which is not that far off from Pelé's goals a match rate, despite playing plenty of his matches as a second fiddle to Pelé himself. Vava was a good player, but he was no scoring legend outside of his play for the Brazilian NT. For instance, in those prime years where he was playing for the Brazilian NT, he played three seasons for Atletico Madrid. As far as I can find, he managed just 39 goals in 81 total matches for Atletico. His scoring for his club and for Brazil are not even in the same stratosphere as each other. This is a good indication that a player's scoring could be highly inflated in that era's Brazil team.

    Overall, of course, an era-adjusted 0.70 goals a match for your NT is still very good. But it is not at all unheard of. Furthermore, when we consider that, regardless of adjustments for era, Pelé was still playing on an absolutely dominant NT that scored tons even for that era with or without him, and that a much less heralded player was able to largely replicate Pelé's scoring for Brazil, it becomes even less impressive.


    Basically, I think Pelé was not the absolutely legendary scorer he is made out to be. At club level, he played on a ludicrously stacked team in a regional league that unsurprisingly scored insane amounts of goals. A random striker was able to largely replicate Pelé's scoring on that same stacked team. Pelé's stats outside of that regional league were nothing special. And when his team no longer was overwhelmingly stacked, he suffered a massive decline in scoring. At NT level, he once again played on an incredibly dominant team that scored insane amounts of goals. Once again, a relatively unheralded player was able to largely replicate Pelé's scoring. Moreover, the NT era itself was significantly higher scoring than any subsequent era has been. And Pelé already scored less for Brazil than he did for his club anyways. Adjusting for all that, I don't think Pelé has a particularly impressive NT scoring record (it is still impressive of course, but not absolutely legendary).
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  2. lessthanjake

    lessthanjake Member+

    May 9, 2015
    FC Barcelona
    Also just a couple points to add to point #5 above:

    1. I should note that this rapid scoring decline is really not plausibly the result of getting too old. Pelé was only 29 years old when the rapid scoring decline occurred.

    2. Relatedly, I don't think the rapid decline can really be attributed to a huge change in role. Pelé was still a striker. Considering that Santos had lost Coutinho after the 1968 season and had just lost Toninho and Pepe after the 1969 season (i.e. they lost the guys who had been their three main goalscorers outside of Pelé), I find it quite implausible that they would've drastically transitioned Pelé away from a scoring role at that point. And, in any case, there's no evidence that they actually did do that.
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  3. PuckVanHeel

    PuckVanHeel Member+

    Oct 4, 2011
    For the "just one cap" by Toninho you have to keep in mind four important things imho:
    • The national team was trying out many different names in the forward line. I haven't counted it but it seems that outside of the 'usuals' they changed it quite a bit.
    • It seems he is a victim of internal politics. At least, three different works write so (Duarte, Bellos, Jenkins), as well as his wikipedia page (for what's worth). He missed 1970WC because of that.
    • From a meritocracy point of view: the national team selectors had a preference for main guys at their club teams, or 'stars' for their club (like guys as Caju even). Pelé overshadowed every attacker at Santos. Think of that 1970WC forward line, where almost all were played out of their club role or position (Tostao, Rivellino, Jairzinho). So: main guys or stars who were then taught to fit in the team. Toninho obviously doesn't meet this criteria.
    • Toninho would have his best chance in 1966 and 1968 when he replaced Pelé or scored more than Pelé. In 1966 the national team played no further games after their early exit at the World Cup; in 1968 he did feature once alongside Pelé for the national team, scoring a goal.

    When comparing to someone like Gerd Müller his scoring keep in mind that he played for a stacked team too. Outside of the 'regular' household names, he also played for a team that bought EC-campaign starters Torstensson (12 goals without penalties in 23 EC games), Wunder and Kappellmann for record fees. That helps in guaranteeing a 'pass' to the next round when the main striker isn't scoring (e.g. semi finals or finals).
  4. Bada Bing

    Bada Bing Member+

    Jul 13, 2012
    FC Barcelona
    Nat'l Team:
    3. Coutinho scored as much as Pele in their two Copa Libertadores wins in 1962 and 1963, 9 goals.
  5. Raute

    Raute Member

    Jun 9, 2015
    SV Werder Bremen
    Toninho scored 27 goals in 1966? but Pele scored 49 goals in 1965. and he just played 30 games.

    Pele didn't decline after 1969, his fallen was after 1966 when he was broken.
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  6. lessthanjake

    lessthanjake Member+

    May 9, 2015
    FC Barcelona
    Yet they didn't try out Toninho very much. I don't understand your point.

    Yeah, I've read that too, and mentioned it months ago on the Messi/CR7 thread when I first brought up Toninho. Here's the thing though. Nothing indicates he was a shoe-in for the WC squad. It's more of a "he might've made the squad as a back up and didn't" sort of thing. He wouldn't have been a star either way, and would've been highly unlikely to be capped in the 1970 WC even if he had been on the squad (which brings up the fact that he never even made a WC squad, let alone get capped at one). Furthermore, there's no indication that he was a victim of internal politics outside of the 1970 WC. WC squads can involve politics, but random friendlies really don't, and, as you said, Brazil experimented with plenty of forwards. For all intents and purposes, they basically didn't bother trying out Toninho. There's no indication that that was about internal politics.

    I don't think that's nearly as true as you'd like to believe. Coutinho was capped 15 times and would've been a starter on the 1962 World Cup squad if not for injury just before the tournament. Pepe was capped 41 times and was included on the 1958 and 1962 World Cup squads, though he did not appear. Edu was capped 42 times in his career and was also on the 1966 World Cup, 1970 World Cup, and 1974 World Cup squads while a Santos forward playing alongside Pelé (and he actually played in both the 1970 and 1974 tournaments). These are other Santos attackers from Pelé's era. It was objectively quite possible to get caps and make WC squads while being a Santos attacker in Pelé's era.

    Toninho had a long career. And he didn't even play all of it alongside Pelé. In fact, he left Santos when he was 27. You are basically trying to say he didn't get caps because he was superseded by Pelé. It just doesn't work as an argument. Multiple other Santos attackers got a bunch of caps despite that, so it's hard to say that Pelé made it hard for other Santos attackers to make it. And, even if he did make it hard, Toninho left Santos at age 27 anyways. The fact is that he got 1 cap and your attempt to explain that away just doesn't really work well.

    And, more specifically, Toninho scored 76 goals in 1968 and was only capped 1 time that year? Brazil played 22 matches that year (all coming in the latter half of the year after Toninho would already have been having a great year and have had the great 1966 season near in the memory too). You can't act like 1 cap out of 22 matches indicates he was well thought of. And that's not even mentioning the fact that Brazil played matches in 1967 and 1969, coming off of Toninho's best years.
  7. lessthanjake

    lessthanjake Member+

    May 9, 2015
    FC Barcelona
    Yes, but Pelé also only scored 47 goals in 53 Paulista matches from 1966-1968. Toninho's 1966 Paulista scoring (and almost surely 1968, but I can't find his Paulista-specific scoring record that season) compares favorably to that.

    He sure did decline after 1969. He went from getting 38 goals in 37 competitive matches in 1969 to getting 11 goals in 28 matches the next season and 9 goals in 40 matches the season after that. He also declined some after 1966, but the post-1969 decline was even more drastic IMO.
  8. lessthanjake

    lessthanjake Member+

    May 9, 2015
    FC Barcelona

    To add to the above:

    Dorval Rodrigues was another attacker for Santos in the era Pelé played. He was capped 13 times for Brazil. And Mengalvio was an AM and he was also capped 13 times for Brazil. Honestly, you really can't argue that Toninho not getting caps is a result of it being hard to get caps as a non-Pelé attacker on Santos.
  9. PuckVanHeel

    PuckVanHeel Member+

    Oct 4, 2011
    You mention names from a different era. That relevant paragraph I wrote is about the Toninho era and certainly post-1962 WC.
  10. lessthanjake

    lessthanjake Member+

    May 9, 2015
    FC Barcelona
    Edu was certainly capped and made WC squads during Toninho's era while playing as an attacker for Santos. And Pepe and Coutinho both got capped for Brazil for a few years after Toninho showed up. Edu pretty clearly disproves your theory though.
  11. PuckVanHeel

    PuckVanHeel Member+

    Oct 4, 2011
    That's BS and strawman reasoning.
  12. lessthanjake

    lessthanjake Member+

    May 9, 2015
    FC Barcelona
    What in the world are you talking about? You claimed that Toninho didn't get capped because the Brazilian NT had a preference for attackers who were the stars of their club and Toninho was in the shadow of Pelé. I pointed out that Edu (as well as Coutinho and Pepe to a lesser extent) got capped and made World cup squads during Toninho's era while playing alongside Pelé as an attacker for Santos. So clearly whatever preference for club stars the NT may have had was not enough to stop other Santos attackers from being capped. Your theory seems to only really have struck Toninho.

    Furthermore, your theory fails to acknowledge that Toninho left Santos at age 27. He had plenty of chance to get caps for Brazil while not playing alongside Pelé at Santos. He didn't get them. In fact, he seems to have been Sao Paolo's top scorer after he left Santos, so he actually fit the bill of being a top attacker at his club during the era you are talking about (remember: he went to Sao Paolo after the 1969 season). Again, he still wasn't capped.
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  13. Once

    Once Member+

    Apr 16, 2011
    If I rememver correctly, in 1962 Coutinho also scored more than Pele in the Paulista as well.
  14. Raute

    Raute Member

    Jun 9, 2015
    SV Werder Bremen
    From 1957 to 1965, Pele was Paulista's top scorer in a row.
  15. Raute

    Raute Member

    Jun 9, 2015
    SV Werder Bremen
    1957-1965 Pele
    Paulista 251 games 361 goals / 1.44 goals per game
    RSPS+TB 81 games 77 goals / 0.95 goals per game
    Copa+IC 18 games 24 goals / 1.33 goals per game
    Selecao 50 games 52 goals / 1.04 goals per game
    official matches 400 games 514 goals / 1.29 goals per game
    include unofficial 622 games 749 goals / 1.20 goals per game

    1966-1969 Pele
    Paulista 78 games 73 goals / 0.94 goals per game
    TRGP+TB 48 games 34 goals / 0.71 goals per game
    Selecao 24 games 16 goals / 0.67 goals per game
    official matches 150 games 123 goals / 0.82 goals per game
    include unofficial 272 games 225 goals / 0.83 goals per game

    as you mentioned, Pele's prolific year was gone since 1970. but also post-1966 is not Pele's prime. his age is doesn't matter, point is he was cracked by too many harsh tackles.
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  16. lessthanjake

    lessthanjake Member+

    May 9, 2015
    FC Barcelona
    #16 lessthanjake, Jan 24, 2016
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2016
    I initially wrote something longer here, but decided to edit it down. Basically, I agree with you that Pelé had a bit of a decline in scoring in 1966. However, I think the numbers exaggerate that decline a bit because 1957-1965 was a much higher scoring era overall, for NT's, and for Santos than 1966-1969 was (and not just because Pelé scored more).

    If you define Pelé's prime as 1957-1965 (or, more accurately, probably 1958-1965, since his 1957 season isn't as prolific as the other years and came in a crazy-high scoring season for Santos), then I have fewer problems with Pelé as a great scorer. You still have the fact that Santos scored 3.4 goals a match in the Paulista in that era, way higher than the team of pretty much any other legendary scorer. So Pelé's numbers are still inflated. And you still have the fact that Toninho's 60 and 76 goals in 1966 and 1968 are comparable to most of Pelé's seasons within that narrower prime, despite Toninho's goals coming in the context of a lower-scoring era. So he still has question marks, but it's harder to conclusively say he wasn't a legendary scorer just in those years.

    Lastly, once you define Pelé's prime as 1957 or 1958 to 1965, suddenly Pelé's longevity as a scorer and a player in general looks a whole lot worse. A lot of his legendary status as a scorer comes from supposedly being a legendary scorer for well over a decade. Conceding that he wasn't a legendary scorer after 1965 (which I honestly think it'd be hard to argue that he was, given all that I've posted) basically admits that that wasn't the case. Moreover, it hurts the notion that Pelé combined great scoring, dribbling, and passing all at once. As with all players, he developed as a passer later in his career. If he stopped being a particularly legendary scorer after 1965, then there's a real argument that he never really combined legendary scoring and world class playmaking at the same time. Again, that surely hurts his all-time standing.
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  17. Once

    Once Member+

    Apr 16, 2011
    Yes, I meant in proportion, scoring rate, not total. My bad. So did Quarentinha in 1960 I think, only he was in the Carioca, not the Paulista.
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  18. PuckVanHeel

    PuckVanHeel Member+

    Oct 4, 2011
    This is a strawman; I mentioned it is one of the factors playing a role, not the overriding factor cancelling everything else. Edu was also not a forward in the sense Toninho was one. At the 1970WC the likes of Gerson (at Sao Paulo), Jairzinho, Rivellino, Tostao were each the main star - or one of the main stars - of their club team. Gerson was around the 1966 World Cup widely seen as the second best Brazilian, behind Pelé.

    Of course team mates are important to save the day; Pelé didn't scored in 41 of his 92 caps (and this includes penalties); Müller didn't score in 24 of his 62 caps (all penalties except one came in a game where he scored another goal); Puskas didn't score in 37 of 89 etc.

    By many accounts he wasn't also as focused on his sport any more, lowering the yearly increase of his mileage. He added some weight, although not in an exaggerating sense (Puskas, Maradona). This changed in the run-up to the 1970 World Cup.
  19. Pipiolo

    Pipiolo Member+

    Jul 19, 2008
    Nat'l Team:
    I would say .82 gpg, looking at official matches only, is still legendary scoring for another four seasons past his best years.
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  20. lessthanjake

    lessthanjake Member+

    May 9, 2015
    FC Barcelona
    The problem is that there are a ton of reasons why that number is suspect for the 1966-1969 era:

    1. In Brazil-wide (or close to Brazil-wide) competition, he only scored 34 goals in 48 matches (0.71 goals a match) in those years. That's very good, but I don't really see that as legendary.

    2. Toninho had 2 seasons in those 4 years in which he scored more goals than Pelé ever scored during those 4 years. In fact, Toninho's 76 goals in 1968 is really miles ahead of anything Pelé did in those years. Again, Toninho seems to have been a solid player, but when you're being outscored by a guy on your team with 1 cap, I can't really buy that you're a legendary scorer.

    3. Pelé competed in 8 club competitions in those 4 years (4 Paulistas, 1 Taca Brasil, and 3 Torneio Roberto Gomes Pedrosa). He only lead the competition in scoring once (1969 Paulista). Meanwhile, Toninho lead the league in the 1966 Paulista, the 1966 Taca Brasil, and the 1968 Torneio Roberto Gomes Pedrosa. Furthermore, another teammate, Edu, lead the 1969 Torneio Roberto Gomes Pedrosa in scoring (note that both Edu and Toninho scored more in their TRGP league leading seasons than Pelé ever did in that competition). When your own non-legendary teammates are leading the league in scoring far more often than you are, I have a hard time saying you're a legendary scorer.

    He was, of course, still a very good scorer from 1966-1969. I wouldn't dispute that. But, given the above facts, I don't think anyone would call this legendary scoring, except that it happened to have come from Pelé.
  21. Jaweirdo

    Jaweirdo Member+

    Aug 19, 2011
    Arsenal FC
    Could it be he was playing a different role? more withdrawn? And plus I was under the impression that Pele was most famous for his 1958-1964 years scoring wise - with a slight dip in 1965 (some reporters started to question if he lost it) and then kind of went downhill, by his own standards at least, and then had a "comeback year" in 1969, and crowned his career with the 1970 World Cup.

    Anyways I didn't know that about Toninho so thanks for the research.
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  22. celito

    celito Member+

    Feb 28, 2005
    Palmeiras Sao Paulo
    Nat'l Team:
    Wow what a hack job this is !!!

    Let's start by comparing Pele's teams to Messi and Ronaldo, 2 players who have scored at a ridiculous pace in the last 7 years. Those two also play for teams that are ridiculously stacked. And not ridiculously stacked with players from one nationality. Stacked the best players from around the world. I won't even bother going through the list these 2 have played with. If we are going to criticize Pele' for playing with world class players, Messi and Ronaldo deserve the same treatment.

    Secondly, Toninho Guerreiro and Coutinho were brought up as examples of how they could score at the same rate as Pele'. Let's remember that Pele' did not play as the striker. As the story goes in Brazil, Coutinho scored many of his goals from assists from Pele'. In the case of Guerreiro I am not sure what setup they were playing. I will compare it again to Messi. He is 28, the stats for 2015 calendar year show Suarez and Neymar scoring almost if not equal to his rate. Are we going to diminish him ?

    Lastly this talk about 28 being his prime and there are no excuses for him to not be scoring at the same rate at that age. First, different players peak at different times. Why don't we talk about how incredible it is that he was scoring at a 1+ goal rate at 18,19,20 while others weren't ? Sure Santos was really good in other positions, but every great player needs good teammates to maximize their potential. As you age, it's not rocket science that you will depend more on a good team to score goals. So of course if Santos weren't as good as whole that was going to affect Pele's scoring. Put Messi and Ronaldo on shitty teams and let's see how they score as they are aging.

    I know it's tempting to take information available on Wiki and websites and try to draw conclusions. But that's a very superficial exercise. It seems like every bit of data in this thesis was analyzed in a biased way to belittle Pele's accomplishments.
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  23. celito

    celito Member+

    Feb 28, 2005
    Palmeiras Sao Paulo
    Nat'l Team:
    I wonder if Vava had played more than 20 games for the NT, his average would be the same. Fairly small sample size don't you think ?
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  24. Estel

    Estel Member+

    May 5, 2010
    Real Madrid
    For the interested reader - an often repeated argument has been presented which seeks to marginalize Pele’s goal scoring achievements because he played in a “regional” league (as it has been termed). Is this argument cogent when not backed with any factual analysis? Yet it gets repeated by some on BS over and over. On the face of it, this specific assertion falls into four traps:

    1)Equates “regionality” with quality
    2)Applies a current football paradigms to the past
    3)Displays a lack of knowledge regarding the league being disparaged
    4)Provides no fact based analysis for comparison with “superior” leagues

    Before addressing each point above, allow me to ask a question (please excuse the stream of consciousness writing). Who are the experts on League comparisons on the BigSoccer boards? Have they yet come to a consensus on which league today is best?

    How often have you read on the boards comments about the Premiership not being quality because only two teams seem in position to win it each year…or that its top scorer couldn’t make it in Serie A....or La Liga can’t be that difficult because most of the top goal scorers don’t have international scoring pedigree….or the Italian teams below the Big Four only show up to round out the league…or that the games are fixed in favor of Juve…or fixed in general….etc…etc….etc. [These are not my arguments, just stuff I’ve seen posted on the numerous threads debating today’s best league].

    I’ve seen reasonably knowledgeable posters have diametrically opposite views about leagues, players and teams. If no consensus can be reached on Leagues everyone here gets to see on weekly basis, how are conclusions being made about leagues most never saw, nor have a modicum of knowledge about?
    1)Regionality versus Quality

    This “regionality” point, when not backed with any empirical evidence, strikes me as just plain odd. What is its relevance to the quality of play?

    If the UK moved to a single league in the future, someone could come along years later and claim that the current Premiership was just a “regional” competition. If so, how would it affect your analysis of the quality of play you are witnessing today? And, would the new UK league guarantee a better product under all circumstances?

    Or, if in the ‘60s France, Spain, Portugal, and Switzerland had formed one country, yet decided to keep their respective leagues intact as major professional championships (with a national champ emerging in a playoff between the champions of each “Regional” league) would the value and abilities of these players have changed? Would the individual leagues, now that they were no longer “national,” lose their inherent quality?

    Let’s extend this argument outside the football arena. In the world of Information Technology, could I assert that the Indian Institute of Technology, whose students and professors are almost 100% Indian, cannot be as good an institution as a Cal Tech or MIT, both of which have a global reach in terms of attracting the world’s best and brightest students and professors? If you ignore the actual raw material and competitive environment within which it blossoms, you could fool yourself….parochial thinking often does this.

    The facts show that the IIT produces as many Silicon Valley / IT whizzes and entrepreneurs as Cal Tech or MIT. Yet, one operates in a country specific context (India), and the other two are global recruiters of students and professors. How can a school that operates in a local context be considered arguably the toughest and most influential engineering school in the world? But it is.

    You get the point. The “regional” nature of a league (institution, economy, or any other human based endeavor) on its own gives absolutely no indication of relative quality to other leagues. Fact based comparisons are necessary to make such assertions.
    2)Applying Current Paradigms to the Past

    Most likely without having seen a single Paulistao game from the ‘60s , the author of the assertion has the conviction that these games were inferior (“practice” level games) relative to some “world standard” (probably European) at the time.

    Well, in the year 2044 a BigSoccer poster – without having viewed a single football game from our era – could construct an argument that Brasilian club football in the year 2004 was in the shadow of the best European leagues. They could point to the fact that:
    • The 2004 EUFA Champions League rosters have more Brasilians (66) than any other nationality save the French (69), despite not having a single Brasilian club participating.
    • The last four winners of the Brasileiro have not been able to keep their rosters intact for more than 18 months, with the vast majority of their stars jumping to Europe.
    • The Brasilian NT’s ideal WCQ’06 starting line-up does not have one player playing domestically.
    • Recent studies conducted in Brasil estimate that on average 3 Brasilian players leave the country per day to find employment in leagues around the world.
    Without being a true comparative analysis of leagues, these facts identify the footballing paradigm of our current era. So a coherent case based on the existing footballing paradigm can in fact be presented without actually having viewed a single game from any league.

    Has a similar case been made against Brasilian football in the Pele era? No.

    Which of the claims above in the current context apply to the past? None.

    As we all know, Brasil won 3 of 4 WCs entered in Pele’s era, and all of them won away from home. I reviewed the game manifests of those championship teams and 100% of the players who saw action were plying their trade in the local State championships (44% of them in the Sao Paulo league, 47% RJ, 7% MG, 2% RS). Seems strange that players produced from “inferior” leagues in Brasil would be so successful against those from the “superior” leagues abroad.

    Its really not strange at all, because the paradigm at the time was different - Brasilian local leagues produced and harbored an abundance of world class caliber players.
    3)Lack of Knowledge of the Brasil footballing context of 1960s – aka the “incoherent” theory

    The poster is absolutely convinced that - even in an environment where the talent exodus paradigm of today did not exist - the “region” of Sao Paulo state in the 1960s could not possibly produce as competitive a league as a western European in that era (such as Spain’s La Liga) despite having as rich a history of professional football, and as large, and a more ethnically diverse, a talent pool of practicing footballers.

    [For purposes of comparisons going forward, I chose to use La Liga. I presumed La Liga would be representative of one of these superior leagues whose quality was such that it made the Sao Paulo League games look like “practices.” Without knowing which specific league he was using as a benchmark, I had to pick something; and with RealMadridreserves as his favorite team, La Liga seemed appropriate.]

    Let us begin by demystifying the “incoherent” Brasilian football landscape in the 1960s. [I presume the poster chose that word in order to imply a chaotic, non-professional, and unauditable quality to the Sao Paolo state championships.]

    Here are the facts:

    Sao Paulo State League (1902 - ?)
    Due to its continental size, less than optimal land travel infrastructure, historical growth and migration patterns (with major metropolitan areas anchoring States), its enormous football loving population allowing for attractive local football economics, and its amazingly deep talent pool, Brasil’s football centered around State championships well until the mid-70s. Each State had its own league, most of which had been established since early in turn of the century. The SP league was founded in 1902. By the 1940’s it had established teams, established venues, and established rivalries as contested and as bitter as any in any part of the world. [My records indicate that the Spanish League’s organized debut was 1928]

    Thus the State of Sao Paulo – a largely populated and vibrant “region” - had a league. No different than France having a league, or England having a league, or Portugal. The States of Rio and Minas had leagues. These leagues had multiple powerhouse teams, enough human raw material (player talent pool) to field quality players deep within the league table, and fan support to compare favorably with most established leagues around the world for their time. The cavernous size of the stadiums built in those days is one of the testaments to the fan following, and viability of these enterprises.

    Can the depth of quality be confirmed for all States in the Brasil….probably not. But, it can be affirmed for the Sao Paulo (as well as Rio de Janeiro, Rio Grande do Sul and Minas Geiras - which had the infrastructure to produce most of the superstars that went on to win world cups while plying their trade from their leagues). Any research on matchups and gate attendance will show you that these leagues were thriving, and not some semi-pro weekend amateur hour variety “peladas” some have come on here to claim.

    A review of the historical records of SP’s orderly and consistent championships reveals the claim of an “incoherent” league to be pretty silly. Please review all the years in the ‘60s at your leisure to further confirm this….notice that format is exactly the same as the league formats we all know (teams played each other twice, maximum points for wins, and one point for draws).

    As stated, the main club competition was at the State level.

    Taca Brasil (1959-1968)
    The State Champs were then paired up in home-and-away matchups to decide the defacto national champion that would represent Brasil in the Libertadores (at the time only one team per country was allowed, regardless of population or league strength). Initially, the clubs weren’t as much interested in the title of “national” champion -- the State championship being the real bread and butter -- but rather were keen on winning entry into the Libertadores for the extra projection and revenues. This was called the Taca Brasil.

    Santos won 5 of these, which when added to their Brasileiro a couple of years ago, makes them a 6 time national champion.

    Rio-Sao Paulo (1950-1966) (1990 - ?)
    Due to Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo’s proximity and historic rivalry (as well as its obvious economic viability) a tournament between each leagues’ top clubs was created in the 1950s. This would be akin to Spain and Portugal having a tournament (lets call it “The Iberian”), with the top 4 teams in each respective league participating (the format changed somewhat during the years). In terms of prestige and pride these were heavily disputed, but still subordinate in prestige to the local State championship.

    Thus, every year Santos played the Paulistao. Success there allowed them to participate in the Taca Brasil and the Rio-S. Paulo. If they won the Taca Brasil, the following year they also played Libertadores (which they won twice, in home-and-away games versus Penarol and Boca). And, if they won the Libs, they played the European Champion in a home-and-away series (as they did in defeating Faschetti’s Inter Milan and Eusebio’s Benfica).

    Nothing complicated. Actually very simple, consistent, and coherent for those who take time to understand. [I must add that Santos, Botafogo and others would enter tournaments around the globe (eg. Tournoi de Paris), for global projection and additional revenues.]

    This was Santos' footballing context in Pele’s era.
    4)Fact Free Assertions

    In the words of nicephoras’ (paraphrasing),“If I claim that you smoke crack, is my obligation to prove it or yours to disprove it?”

    Anyone can make assertions. Few bother to back them up.

    What if I stated that the European leagues of the era, without the overwhelming S.American influx of today, were actually inferior? Beyond DiStefano & Puskas’ Real and Kubala’s Barcelona, which other strong teams performed in La Liga in the 60’s, and how can we tell how strong they were if they didn’t play regularly against international competition? Was Real indicative of La Liga’s overall league strength? Apart from Honved, what was the quality of the teams and players in the Hungarian league top to bottom? What of Kopa’s and Fontaine’s stats in the French league at the time, who were they playing against?

    Maybe I could attack individual players with comments like, “what of the El Dorado Colombian league in which DiStefano put up some big numbers…who will vouch for its quality?” You get the point. It’s baseless without fact.

    [Personally I don’t need to question the pedigree of any of the players or leagues mentioned in my example. I’m satisfied that those great players were able to step up against all competition; just as Pele’s stats against European competition at club and country level is impressive enough to quell any such “regional” competition red-herrings. Even if one is not knowledgeable about the Brasilian footballing context in the ‘60s, Pele’s international record for club and country is documented. And it’s stellar.It’s not difficult to research these facts, nor what his peers (including the European defenders he faced) have to say about him. They faced him, they know. These things are all verifiable.]

    IMO, the quality of a league can be measured by the quality of the players playing and produced, the depth of the competition, the top-to-bottom balance, available statistics of head-to-head matchups with teams of rival leagues, and the international records of the NTs when formed with players from the local clubs. There are other items of course, but these are the main ones, are they not?

    I have yet to see a single factual post comparing these attributes among the leagues in Pele’s era.
  25. Estel

    Estel Member+

    May 5, 2010
    Real Madrid
    Some Facts to Consider

    Though the general rule is to have someone prove their assertions, I’m still inclined to begin a fact based discussion around this topic. Here are some starters:

    Quality of the Average Player
    What makes a person convinced that the average player in the Sao Paulo league of the 1960s was inferior to the average European player? So inferior in fact that these games were equivalent to “practices” relative to some presumed “world standard” of football. It can’t just be the “regional” argument….that would be poor. So what is it?

    IMO it stems from a peculiar habit of marginalizing SA players that didn’t achieve world prominence. An “If I didn’t hear about them, they couldn’t have been that good,” sort of attitude. Is it prejudice that motivates such thoughts? Maybe not; but without facts, it is prejudicial.

    But how do we assess the quality of the average player in a league without having seen those games on a weekly basis….especially when posters refuse to use head-to-head comparisons of NTs and amongst best clubs during the international club competitions of the time as a measure of league strength?

    Maybe we can try to gauge how tough it was to make it as a professional.

    For most of the 60s the number of teams in the first division SP league was 16 (the exact number that played in La Liga for most of the decade Assuming these teams had approximately equal sized rosters of 22 players, Sao Paulo had 352 professional first division players from a base of 37 million people. Assuming that only half of the population were men, we have an index of 0.000019 professional football players per capita [352/(37 million x 50%)]. Maybe we can use this as a rough measure of the likelihood of becoming a professional footballer in the first division of the SP League.

    Was it tougher to become a pro in La Liga? We know that there were just as many professional first division players (352), over close to same population base (40 million). Using the same male to female ratio, we have an index of 0.000018 professional football players per capita. Seems that from a rough statistical approach one cannot claim that it was harder to become a pro in La Liga.

    [We could get more anal about this…the population numbers should be regressed to more accurately reflect figures in 1960 (don’t have the time); the potential pool of players should reflect men between ages of 16-34 or so; per capita income could be used as a factor to address the likelihood of the local population to seek sports as avenue for employment (thus effecting the denominator); etc. Our rough calculation will have to do at this juncture.]

    What is an exceptable ratio in order to conclude that the average player quality in a league meets a minimum standard? I don't know. Whatever it is, it would have to take into account football's prominence and evolution in the regions being compared. I'd say in this case neither is inferior to the other in that regard (remember the SP league started in 1902, and football the overwhelming passion in the area).

    So, if it was not statistically harder to end up playing in the first division of the S.Paulo league, why would these players be assumed inferior to their counterparts in the Spanish La Liga? What are the externalities that would make this so? One could claim that the Brasilians were less physically or technically blessed than their Spanish counterparts; or that the best Brasilian athletes chose other modalities of sport (reducing the denominator); or that Brasilians didn’t learn to play the “right way; or that they were not as football smart….or any number of dubious and improvable assertions.

    [If you do a search on the rosters of Rivelino’s Corinthians, Ademir da Guia’s Palmeiras, Zizinho’s or Gerson’s Sao Paulo – all in the S.Paulo league - you will see the strength of these teams. The same can be done for the Rio teams which were also stellar (Garrincha’s Botafogo is one of the most impressive line-ups you will ever see).]
    In the same vein, here’s a recent article in the Argentine magazine Ole. Leonel Gancedo, a midlevel Argentine player who spent 4 years in La Liga, is asked a question about his experiences in Spain. At one point he is asked a specific question about league quality.

    —¿Y cómo ves la Liga?
    -- How do you see La Liga?

    —En realidad la salvan los extranjeros. El grueso de los jugadores nativos es muy limitado y por eso les va así de mal a nivel selección. Para mí, si le sacás los extranjeros, el fútbol español es uno de los peores del mundo. El jugador argentino sigue siendo atrevido, como muchos sudamericanos, y mantiene el potrero. Por eso nos llevan.
    -- In reality the foreigners save them. The mass of the native players are[technically] limited and that’s why their national team struggles. In my opinion, if you removed the foreigners, Spanish football is one of the worst. The Argentinean player continues to be an attractive proposition, like many southamericans, and maintains the standard. That’s why they bring us.

    Seems that Senor Gancedo is not overly impressed with the level of the majority of the local players he played against on a weekly basis in La Liga. Without necessarily agreeing with his opinion (it has been voiced by others), it does show that there has never been unanimity in the view that on average European players are, or were, better than their S.American counterparts (especially Argentine and Brasilian). You would have to believe it to be the case in order to offhandedly dismiss the football played in the Paulistao in the ‘60s vs. La Liga in the ‘60s (when it was overwhelmingly a Spanish player league).
    Some Facts to Consider - pt. 2

    Relative League Strength
    To follow along with the next presentation you need be able to manipulate the La Liga site

    [To access the final Liga results in any year:

    a) Select Historia de la liga on the left hand menu column; then
    b) Clasificaciones de la Temporada in the center of the page menu, then
    c) pick a season in the drop down menu, and choose the very last Jornada (fixture); then
    d) press Aceptar.

    Once you get the hang of it, it’s a great reference tool for Spanish football].

    I picked two years at random during Pele’s era for comparison. The first was 1962.

    You can see the final standings of the Sao Paulo league at the bottom of the link
    • The number of teams was 16, thus a total of 240 fixtures [n(n-1)]
    • The total number of goals scored in the league was 805 [add the GA column]
    • Therefore the goals per game average was 3.35.
    How did La Liga compare? Because of the overlap in calendar years of the European seasons, I could either look at 1961-1962, or 1962-1963 seasons. I chose the first for no particular reason.
    • The number of teams was 16, thus a total of 240 fixtures
    • The total number of goals scored in the league was 761 [add the GF or GC columns]
    • Therefore the goals per game average was 3.17
    The first thing that should jump out at the reader is the fact that the S.Paulo league is of the same size as La Liga. Whether it was +/- one, two, or even five would not have mattered, but it does confirm the assertion that on a per capita basis it was just as tough to become a pro in the S.Paulo league as in La Liga. Whether you agree with this hypothesis or not, you can see that the historical records of orderly and consistent SP championships disproving the “incoherent” claim.

    Secondly, it is interesting that over 240 fixtures the difference in goals/game is a “whopping” +0.18. So if each league had played 100 more games, the SP league would have created 18 more goals than the La Liga. Please stand up if you believe this indicates that SP goals are akin to “practice” goals. Depending on your bias, that 0.18 difference could be attributed to marginally better defenders in La Liga, or slightly better forwards in SP…..or none of these.

    [In Santos’ 30 games in the league, they would have had the opportunity to score 5.4 more goals (30 * 0.18). How exactly do you pad your stats with that? Hopefully Pele was selfish enough to bag all 5.4 of those for himself !!!]

    Seriously, with the amount of offensive talent available in Brasil in the ‘60s, and the known offensive approach to football of the Brasilian clubs, shouldn’t we expect to see a much greater disparity in goals per game relative to La Liga? Hmm, seems that defense was being played after-all.

    I also took a glance at the two teams right in the center of the table at year’s end (the 8th and 9th placed teams). The first set are the SP teams, the second set are La Liga.

    Team ..........Points……Won…Draws…….Loss……GF……GA…..GDifference

    Guarani-------29-----------11--------7----------12-------50-------45-------- +15

    Comercial----27------------11------5------------14-------42------51-------- (-9)

    Elche CF------29------------10-------9----------11-----52--------52--------- 0

    Real Betis-----28-----------10-------8-----------12-----39--------51--------- (-12)

    What can we conclude from this? Not sure. I couldn’t offer a prognostication as to what would have happened if these mid level teams had played each other. It is interesting to note that they generally managed to amass the same point total while finishing in the same exact place in the league standing. Again, no conclusive proof on anything.

    Maybe 1967 can prove to us once and for all that SP league was inferior.
    • The number of teams was 14, thus a total of 182 fixtures [n(n-1)]
    • The total number of goals scored in the league was 526 [add the GA column]
    • Goals per game average of 2.89
    How did La Liga compare? Because of the overlap in calendar years of the European seasons, I could either look at 1966-1967, or 1967-1968 season. Again, I chose the first to be consistent.
    • The number of teams was 16, thus a total of 240 fixtures
    • The total number of goals scored in the league was 656 [add the GF or GC columns]
    • Goals per game average of 2.73.
    Relative to 1962, this season saw a general downward movement in goals per game in both leagues. Interestingly the delta in goals/game is now +0.16. So if each league had played 100 more games, the SP league would have created 16 more goals than the La Liga. I’ll leave it up to the reader to decide the materiality of this fact with respect to the “practice” comment previously referenced.

    Because the leagues are off by two teams in 1967, I choose this time to look at the middle two clubs in each league in a slightly different manner. Given that each SP team played 26 games, and each La Liga team played 30 in 1967 it made sense to view their point totals as a percentage of the maximum number of points they could have earned. Remember, in those days it was 2 pts for a win, and 1 pt for a tie.

    Team ..........Points Won………….Max. Points Possible……..%



    CD Sabadell--30-----------------------60-------------------50%

    Elche CF------27----------------------60-------------------45%

    I can interpret this in many ways, but none leads me to the conclusion that one league was superior to the other.

    What have we proven with certainty…not much. No evidence has been brought to light that either league was “inferior” or “superior” relative to each other, or relative to a presumed “world standard” for the time. We could use more analysis in this area; but the quick snapshot has shown no material differences in these leagues over a two year view.

    Without knowing which league was relatively easier or harder, I do know which league produced the most WC winning players. :)
    Some Facts to Consider - pt. 3

    A Player Case Study
    So, despite the tradition of established professional football in SP from the turn of the century; despite the deep talent pool available; despite the talent remaining local (providing 100% of the WC winning teams 58-70); despite his overall winning record against European competition and stellar goal scoring ratio against said competition; and despite no conclusive (or circumstantial) evidence that La Liga was better in his day; some are absolutely convinced that Pele would not have fared as well in Europe.

    If only we had a test case – a player who came to La Liga as an established star, but not over the hill; a player who played his Brasilian football in the Sao Paulo league; a player who had an equally long career in La Liga as in Sao Paulo (for comparison purposes); and whose function was similar to a “ponta de lance” (Pele’s role).

    I can’t think of one from the ‘60s who fits the bill, but I can think of a proxy for the ‘90s: Rivaldo.

    Rivaldo is one of my favorite players from the last decade, and was an offensive midfielder/attacker with a knack for scoring important and memorable goals. He played 6 years in the SP league, followed by 6 years in La Liga – providing us with an almost perfect basis for comparison. Please review his offensive production here:

    Simple math gives you Rivaldo’s goal scoring average over six seasons in each league:

    Sao Paulo – 0.46 goals / game
    La Liga - 0.54 goals / game

    If we drop his best statistical years in both leagues to eliminate a potential fluke season’s impact we have (over the five remaining seasons):

    Sao Paulo – 0.39 goals / game
    La Liga – 0.52 goals / game

    If we drop his worst statistical years in both leagues to eliminate a potential fluke season’s impact we have (over the five remaining seasons):

    Sao Paulo – 0.49
    La Liga – 0.57

    If we drop both his worst and best statistical years we have (over the four remaining seasons):

    Sao Paulo – 0.42
    La Liga – 0.55

    In every single scenario Rivaldo’s offensive La Liga output exceeded his Sao Paulo tally.

    How could that be? Wasn’t La Liga the superior league in the ‘90s? Hadn’t the talent exodus in the Brasilian game already begun by then?

    I’ll leave it up to you to decide what the factors where that explained this increase in output. Suffice to say, Rivaldo is a case study that should put to bed this generalization that a superstar’s offensive punch automatically would get muted by a move to Europe.

    IMO its as simple as great players adapt to their environment. [comme/Gregoriak, you should do the same analysis for Platini and Nordahl - both of whom came from supposedly weaker leagues to play in a defensively renown Italian Calcio - you may be surprised].

    And as wonderful a talent was Vitor Barbosa Ferierra (Rivaldo), no Brasilian football expert confuses him with Pele...yet some here can profess with absolute certainty that he would not have excelled as equally, if not better, had he played in a league such as La Liga during his time.

    Maybe someone can provide some proof?
    Now, if I haven’t totally bored you to tears, I’d like to conclude by addressing what I call Pele’s “58-1.58-1958” breakout year.

    In the course of discussing Brasilian football with one of the most knowledgeable posters on BS (nothing facetious about this statement), he took issue to Pele’s 58 goals scored in the Paulistao of 1958. It just seemed “too much.” It seemed to him that this 1.58 goals per game tally had to be league dependent. I on the other hand have no such skepticism. Why?

    Firsty, I am convinced that the SP league was equal to any in the world at the time given my research and personal background (because it is anecdotal, I hesitate to mention that I have a family member who lived in France, Spain, Brasil and Chile during the '60s and saw massive amounts of football in person in each country - he has no qualms in stating this either).

    And secondly, breakout years are not uncommon for superstars in their sport. Consider:

    NFL – OJ Simpson rushed for 2003 yards in 13 games in 1973 (still not equaled over 13 games).

    NBA – Oscar Robertson averaged a triple double in points, rebounds, and assists for a whole season with 30 pts, 12.5 rebs, 11.4 assists per game in 1962. (still not equaled)

    NBA – Michael Jordan won 3 championships after taking a two year hiatus from the league in his prime.

    Track - Bob Beamon set a long-jump mark in 1968 that stood for 25 years.

    Baseball – This season (2004) Barry Bonds had an OPS – a blend of the two main indices of a offensive ability (On Base Percentage and Slugging Percentage) – a full 400pts higher than the second best offensive player Albert Pujols (Pujols is considered a certain hall of famer….Bonds made his OPS look like mickey mouse in comparison).

    I can name many more of these singular athletic achievements. We all can.

    Why couldn’t Pele score 58 goals in 38 games in 1958? He was as exceptional an athlete in his domain as the guys mentioned above, if not more. He was capable of the extraordinary in his sport, without the need for “externalities.”

    He debuted as a professional in the SP league at the age of 15 years and 11 months on the 7th of September 1956. He made a quantum leap forward within two years, with 1958 being the dazzler [maybe there’s some numerology behind it…..58 goals for 1.58 goal/game average in 1958]. These facts don’t cause me to question the league.

    Please take a look at the list of top goal scorers for the Sao Paulo league over time, and you’ll see that this scoring rate was not at all typical of the league.

    With all the great forwards that came before and after Pele in Brasilian football, not one goalscorer won the Paulistao’s golden boot with a 40 goal mark. So this impression of a defense-free competition is way off base. The fact that he was able to reach 40 on four occasions (he never reached the 50 mark in the Paulistao again) is akin to what Barry Bonds is doing with modern offensive baseball statistics….breaking the mold in his time.

    Why try to bind his achievements with artificial limitations? Nothing in his career, even early on, was common.

    Pele made his debut with the Brasilian national team on July 7th, 1957 – with less than 12 months as a professional – at the age of 16 years and 9 months. How on earth did he manage to crack a spot on one of the most competitive NTs in the world (especially for offensive positions) if he wasn’t exceptional? [Thank goodness Silvio Pirillo, the NT coach at the time, was not trying to bind the kid’s talent around any preconceived notions.]

    The game was against Argentina in the first leg of the Copa Roca. Led by an in-form Labruna, Carizzo and Nestor Rossi, Argentina won 2-1. Argentina got goals from Labruna and Juarez. Who scored the Brasilian goal? You guessed it…the 16 year old who had been around for less than a year.

    In the second game three days later, he started, and again scored in Brasil’s 2-0 victory over their neighbors (Mazzola contributed with the other goal). Brasil retained the Copa Roca that year, but the Rio papers (who did not get to see him on a regular basis) were more impressed with what they had been witness to from the young phenom. When had such a set of extraordinary dynamics occurred before?

    His form was such that in early ’58 the famed Brasilian dramatist and journalist Nelson Rodrigues called him “O Rei”, and predicted, “With Pele on the team, and others like him, we won’t go to Sweden with fear. Others will tremble before us.” [The sound footage of him saying this is captured in the documentary Pele, Eterno.] This comment regarding a teenager in the dawn of his career came from a man who had seen and covered Leonidas, Zezinho, Ademir and other Brasilian greats. A man who had covered Copa Rocas and Copa Rio Brancos, with Argentine and Uruguayan legends. A man who had been witness to the greatness of the Puskas’ and Fritz Walters’ of the world. It was evident to him early on that this was a special talent.

    A talent who could average 1.58 goals / game in the Paulistao in 1958.

    A talent who went on to average 1.50 goals / game against European NT defenders at the WC in Sweden in that same year of 1958.

    Given the subject, 58 – 1.58 - 1958 is entirely consistent and plausible to me.

    He would make my All-Time XI.
    Maradona’s career games (based on comme's link) – 829 games
    Beckenbauer - 659 (based on + ) - its probably understated by 100 games (appreciate any more definitive answer)

    Now, would anyone argue that either one of those players was in their prime on their last game? Was Diego the best Diego on game 824? Was Beckenbauer on game 645, or so, making history at Hamburg?

    Pele played a total of 105 games after retiring from Brasilian football ( ). Thus 1219 games pre-Cosmos, from Sept 7, 1956 to until October 2, 1974 ( ) That is an average of 68 games per year! When you add that to the fact that substitutions of any kind were not allowed until 1965 or so, and only allowed in WC in 1970, he played 10 years of full 90s.

    The fact that Santos played international tournaments - such as Tournoi de Paris, Gialloroso, Valencia, Tereza Herrera and such, to fill coffers in part to pay him and keep him from demanding to leave - against such substandard teams as Benfica, Inter Milan, et al. :), in the midst of the Brasilian league, is also noteworthy. International flights at a time when air travel was not as smooth as today. Even travel within Brasil was not what it is today.

    O Rei had played somewhere in the neighbourhood of 900 games by WC 1970!

    Its easy to compute in Excel, just put in the dates and following formula to get elapsed months


    Simple division and multiplication gets you to:

    926 games by 6/3/70, Brasil's first game of WC’70!

    [For the cynics, go ahead and discount this number by 20% and you still get 741 games].

    Perspective. By 1970 he had played roughly Maradona, and Beck’s entire careers. Why is it hard to understand the argument that he was not in his prime physically at 29? The mileage on his body from the sequence of games, compounded with the travel, marking and fouls suffered, lack of substitutions for half of his career, and less sophisticated nutritional and physical therapy all had to have impact. Focusing on date of birth is erroneous.

    The fact that he had such an outstanding WC’70 – you’ll never hear me call it disappointing – but on the other side of his prime is another indication of the man’s greatness (football intelligence wise he probably was at his peak). The fact that he won SA football player of the year in ’73 is further testament to how high he reached at his apex.
    I love this type of logic.

    Where is the answer to this question supposed to lead us? What is its (il)logical conclusion? Pele is over-rated because he only won two Libs?

    Why did Maradona never win a Champions League title? ..or a Libs? What would the answer to such questions prove?

    Mind you that I asked the question only for puposes of analogy; I would never use such an argument to denigrate Diego's greatness. However, it is representative of the type of argument that frequently comes up with strident Pele detractors -- minutiae in the face of overwhelming achievement.

    The man wins two Libs (including commanding one of the first wins against Boca at La Bombonera) and two World Club Championships (home and away versus Benfica and Milan - with a Pele hat-trick on Eusebio's home ground), with a team that had no domestic or international pedigree prior to his arrival, yet the word ‘only’ is attached! Even in single quotes this question is out of place.

    Where was Santos on the football map before he started to play there? How far did they go with him? Think he had anything to do with it? This is bordering on absurd.

    Thanks ASF for your post, indeed Argentine club football’s history in Libs is second to none.

    I’m not quite sure of your intent on this one Ianman, so excuse my comments if they don't refelect the message you intended to communicate. My feeling is that the situation is quite similar. Both teams’ fortunes in their hey-day were tied inextricably with their two mega-studs, Pele and Maradona. Neither were awful teams when they were there.

    Careca - Brazilian international striker (very good)
    Alemao - Brazilian midfield international
    Carnevale - Italian international defender

    Including Maradona, the undisputed leader of the team, that's four internationals from perennial WC contending nations forming the spine of the squad. Hardly a poor team.

    And Santos of the '60s variety also was hardly a poor team with Pepe and Coutinho. However, we know where they were prior to Pele's arrival – nowhere. Given the heights they reached during his reign, the decline post retirement, and how long it took them to recover from his absence, his impact on that team was immeasurable (actually quite measurable by the results pre and post-era).

    Also, there is one difference. Unlike Santos, Napoli has never been mentioned as one of the great club squads of all-time. Interesting given fact that Santos didn't purchase international players to build their squad, and never ceded more than four players to the Selecao at any particular time. The only other player considered an all-time great on that team would be Carlos Alberto, who played there towards the latter years and was not present for the World Club Championship campaigns.

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