Brazilian soccer legend Pelé. File | Image Credit: Reuters
Superlatives from some of soccer’s greats and others about Pelé, who died Thursday in Brazil at age 82:
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“To watch him play is to watch the joy of a child combined with the extraordinary grace of a whole man.” – Nelson Mandela.
“I told myself before the game, he is made of skin and bones like everyone else – but I was wrong.” – Italy’s Tarcisio Burgnich, after playing against Pele in the 1970 World Cup Final.
“Pelé was one of the few who contradicted my theory: Instead of 15 minutes of fame, he would have 15 centuries.” – Andy Warhol.
“Sometimes I feel like football was invented for this magical player.” – Sir Bobby Charlton, retired England great who won the 1966 World Cup and Ballon d’Or in the same year.
“Pelé is the only footballer who has exceeded the limits of logic.” – Johan Cruyff, the late Dutch star and standout manager who won the Ballon d’Or three times.
“He’s the most complete player I’ve ever seen.” – Retired German great Franz Beckenbauer.
“If you take the qualities of Cristiano Ronaldo and (Lionel) Messi, put them together, then you have a player to compare with Pelé!” – Retired Brazil forward Tostao.
“The best player ever? Pelé. (Lionel) Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are both great players with specific qualities, but Pelé is better. – Alfredo Di Stefano, the late Argentine star for Real Madrid.
“His great secret was improvisation. The things he did were on the spur of the moment. He had an extraordinary perception of the game.” – Brazil defender Carlos Alberto Torres.
“This debate about the player of the century is absurd. There is only one possible answer: Pelé. He is the best player of all time, and by some distance, I might add. – Retired Brazilian star Zico.
“The greatest player in history is Di Stefano. I refuse to classify Pelé as a player. He is above that.” – Hungary star Ferenc Puskas.
“We went up together to head the ball. I was taller, had better impulses. When I got down I looked up in surprise. Pelé was still there, in the air, dominating that ball. It’s like he can stay suspended as long as he wants.” – Italy defender Giacinto Facchetti.
“When I saw Pelé play, I felt I should hang up my boots.” – Just Fontaine, the Morocco-born French star who scored 13 goals in six games at the 1958 World Cup.
“The moment the ball arrived at Pelé’s feet, football became poetry.” – Italian poet Pier Paolo Pasolini.
“The difficulty, the extraordinary, is not to score 1,000 goals like Pelé – it is to score one goal like Pelé.” – Carlos Drummond de Andrade, Brazilian poet.
“Pelé is the most complete player I have ever seen. Two beautiful feet. Magic in the air. Quickly. Powerful. Skilled people can be defeated. People can be overcome. Only 5-feet-8 inches tall, yet he seemed like a giant of an athlete on the pitch. Perfect balance and impossible vision.” – Bobby Moore, captain of the 1966 World Cup champion team from England.
“I came in the hope of stopping a great man, but I left convinced that I had been overruled by a man who was not born on the same planet as the rest of us.” – Benfica goalkeeper Costa Pereira after the 5-2 loss to Santos.
“There’s Pelé the man, and Pelé the player. And to play like Pelé is to play like God.” – Retired France star and three-time Ballon d’Or winner Michel Platini.
“Pelé is the greatest player in the history of football, and there will only be one Pelé in the world.” – Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal star forward.