Ex-England star's dressing room chat with Pele sums up iconic Brazilian legend

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Ex-England star
Ex-England star's dressing room chat with Pele sums up iconic Brazilian legend

Pele went to New York Cosmos already established as the greatest of all time.

The Brazil legend had already won the World Cup three times, broken all records and he went to the North American Soccer League in 1975 for one last adventure. And it could have easily been an intimidating experience for one of his team mates, a wide-eyed 20-year-old from the Midlands.

But former England star Steve Hunt remembers Pele as a down-to-earth superstar who never let his status stop him from being an "approachable team mate". Hunt, who went on to play for West Brom and win two caps for England, said: "There I was, just starting out and he was the greatest player in the world but he never had any sort of ego.

"He was a lovely, lovely guy and there was never any sort of hint of ‘I’m up there, you’re down there.’ He never once abused his status or reputation. He had time for everybody. This guy was the real deal and something truly special because he was so down to earth and so normal."

The Cosmos was filled with 1970s superstars like Carlos Alberto, Franz Beckenbauer and then Pele. They were winding down their careers while Hunt was persuaded to do the opposite as they signed him as a youngster from Aston Villa’s youth set-up.

Pele buried on ninth floor of cemetery so he can see pitch that made him famous rridqqieqiqerinvPele buried on ninth floor of cemetery so he can see pitch that made him famous

Hunt recalls his move but also the bizarre circumstances of sharing a pitch with global superstars when the Cosmos and the NASL were just starting out. Hunt said: "When I was told there was a guy in the canteen to talk to me about Cosmos, I realised that there was a chance to play with Pele and it was a case of 'where do I sign?'

Ex-England star's dressing room chat with Pele sums up iconic Brazilian legendSteve Hunt (No.11) played alongside Pele at New York Cosmos (Getty Images)

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"I do think if I’d stayed in England then I would not have had the career that I went on to have thanks to playing with the likes of Pele at the Cosmos. I decided just to go there and soak it all up, learn what I could.

"There was one game where I was a 20-year-old kid, a bit of a hot head and I had a shot, grazed the crossbar and I thought it was a good effort. But Pele had a different opinion - and told me so in Portuguese. It’s probably lucky I didn’t understand! I got subbed immediately and the manager was having none of it.

"I spoke to him afterwards and he said he would have done exactly the same when he was my age. That said everything about him."

Hunt did see Pele again at a Cosmos reunion in 1992 and, while they did not keep in regular touch, they immediately had a connection.

Hunt, 66, who wrote the book I’m With The Cosmos about his time at the star-studded team, added: "The first thing he said was: 'where’s your hair gone?!' I used to have a big head of hair and, by then, I’d got a lot older.

"There was no doubt in my mind that he was the greatest. He took so much punishment with players trying to kick him off the pitch and we had shocking pitches back then when today they are like snooker tables. It’s a very sad thing because no-one has ever been like Pele before or since. He was the greatest."

John Cross

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