Pele's goals and stats compared to Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi

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Pele
Pele's goals and stats compared to Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi

Pele died last week at the age of 82 but his legend lives on around the globe.

The Brazilian icon was the game's first superstar and truly made his name on the World Cup stage. His three triumphs, beginning in 1958 and ending in 1970, have marked him out as arguably the greatest player of all time. In the modern age, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have challenged that theory.

Much of the debate revolves around player and generational preference, but one thing the trio have in common is their appetite for goals. Ronaldo and Messi began as wide players before morphing into relentless goalscorers. Pele began as a centre-forward - and his tally shows that.

He opted to spend almost the entirety of his career in his homeland with Santos, while his latter years were spent with New York Cosmos. Messi also spent the majority of time at one club, whereas Ronaldo explored more leagues, which is seen as a point of difference.

The club game

Barcelona is the club where Messi scored almost all of his goals, while Santos witnessed the vast majority of Pele's magic. Ronaldo's have been well spread across Manchester United, Real Madrid and Juventus. He left Los Blancos, where he spent nine seasons, as the club's record scorer.

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Their career goal tallies at club level read: Messi 695, Ronaldo 701 and Pele 709. Santos have previously claimed that the Brazilian scored over 1,000 times during his career, although many of these goals are not deemed 'official'. To break it down further, Messi's single season best of 73 goals tops both his rivals; Ronaldo's best tally is 61 and Pele's 66.

Pele's goals and stats compared to Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel MessiCristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are the two modern-day greats (Getty Images)

It is worth considering that modern-day players certainly have more games in which to score, which would see the ratios of goals per game lean towards Pele. As a further consideration, Messi holds the record for goals in a calendar year, 91, which he recorded with Barca and Argentina in 2012.

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On the international stage

Ronaldo has recently set himself apart as the most prolific international player in history, surpassing the record previously held by Iran icon Ali Daei. He's sat on 118 goals for Portugal, having made his debut back in 2003. Messi, like Ronaldo, is his country's leading scorer but his Argentina total sits at 98.

Pele remains - just - Brazil's joint-leading scorer. Neymar recently equalled his record of 77 goals in his 124th cap whilst at the World Cup in Qatar, albeit the legendary figure scored that many in far fewer games. His haul came in 92 outings - giving him a strike ratio of 0.84. Ronaldo's is 0.6 whilst Messi's is 0.56.

Pele's goals and stats compared to Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel MessiPele claimed three World Cup triumphs (John Varley/REX/Shutterstock)

The World Cup is the only stage all three can somewhat be compared on equal footing. Messi recently joined Pele as a World Cup winner - a claim Ronaldo cannot match. The Argentine has scored more World Cup goals - 13 - than his two rivals, though he's played more games.

Pele hit 12 goals at the World Cup and Ronaldo has notched eight times. Pele's ratio, though, sees him come out on top again; 0.86 compared to Messi on 0.5 and Ronaldo on 0.36.

This means that once the club and the international stages come together and the calculators are whipped out, across their careers, Ronaldo has scored more than Messi and Pele. He has notched 819 times, with Pele sat on 786 and Messi bagging on 793 occasions.

Samuel Meade

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15.07.2024, 17:44 • Investigation