The Brazilian football legend has not broken the mold of greatness. he built it

Ironically, for a man who has stood alone at the pinnacle of his sport for so long, it’s hard today to get a clear, unimpeded view of Pele.

Approaching him from an angle, you can see Diego Maradona with him, half obscuring him. Moving to the other side, Lionel Messi is standing on his toes, waiting to be weighed and measured, Pele’s one side of him reflects Johan Cruyff, Ronaldo in his Phenomeno, Neymar, Kylian in his Mbappe increase. All these players and countless other players have a piece of him. Part of him, I assure you, is only him, the true heart of greatness.

The man who was not known worldwide as Edson Arantes do Nascimento died Thursday in Sao Paulo at the age of 82 after a long battle with cancer. I believe so. In less than two weeks, it’s even harder to talk about Pele alone, as so many others have acquired a new all-time great. It is almost impossible to separate his actual greatness from the long-tail memory of his greatness, from the weight of the institutional memories that accumulated after his career, from the symbol he became. is.

Pele didn’t break the mold, so comparisons were inevitable. he made a mold. Our idea of ​​what a great footballer is was framed around him and everyone who followed was crammed inside to see how they were measured. But scoring goals was not enough. It needed to be a creative problem-solver and an artist who inspired how to break through defenses, whether through passing or dribbling, shotmaking or all of the above. What Pele did was codify the idea that soccer players and sportsmen can be geniuses, and that it takes a certain amount of genius for your legacy to be on par with previous players.

Enjoy another, more in-depth comparison that helps explain Pele’s genius that was obvious from the start. Orei, at the age of 17, while leading his country to its first-ever World Cup title in 1958. But it’s the nature of the goals that turned him into a global superstar when he was still a teenager. The defense is amateurish, the shot is poor, and Liedholm beats two defenders at about five yards with essentially one pullback. .

Only one of Brazil’s first two goals is included in this clip, but both slipped past the defense from low right-sided crosses and were shoved home by forward Bava. These are not embarrassing, but normal.

and Pele. He slid around an unsuspecting defender and took a cross from the left of his chest, juggling the ball up over the next Swede’s head before volleying it home without dropping it to the ground. It’s a ballet-like, improvisational brilliance that happens decades ahead of Rietholm’s opening. The contrast couldn’t be more pronounced.Somewhere between the game’s first goal and his fourth, the Beatles played The Ed Sullivan Showthe man walked on the moon, Star Wars It was released theatrically. The world will never be the same. If every football looked like a Liedholm goal, it wouldn’t be worth watching. Pele’s genius and desire to replicate that genius spread around the world, turning sports into one of his most ubiquitous forms of entertainment on the planet.

He won that World Cup at age 17 and went on to win it twice more before his career ended. He scored nearly 1,300 goals in his career, counting his time with Santos, Brazil, who was declared a national treasure and banned from moving to Europe. with the national team. and with the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League during the twilight of his career. Instead of letting Pele play for a European powerhouse, Santos spends hours barnstorming across continental Europe, playing teams in lucrative friendly matches that the whole world pays to get a glimpse of Pele. I made it possible. Today, the Brazilian league is considered a step below the top European competitions. Today, goals in friendly matches do not count in the official tally. Neither was true in the 1960s. It’s hard to know how much the major stick you use has changed.

But Pele’s career, whether taken in its entirety or zoomed in, is amazing. What stands out most from looking at the highlights that survived is how little space he needed to take down defenders. He waited for the moment when he couldn’t stop his weight shifting in the wrong direction or his feet being placed in the wrong place before realizing they were his own. was a master waiting to suddenly pass by.Make yourself a weak spot through feints and leans.

The sentiment that prevailed in the hours after his death was Manchester City forward Erling Haaland There’s the catchphrase “Pele did it first” followed by grainy videos of Pele doing the same moves last year, often decades ago . There are comparisons between them.

The truth is that the contrast between his goals and Liedholm’s is an oversimplification. There were great players before Pele who were doing great things. Some of them may even have done them in the first place. But with the help of the rise of mass media, the rise of television and the burgeoning globalization of the times, he is in many ways where the institutional memory of gaming is in full swing. Leonidas and Giuseppe his Meazza, Alfredo di his Stefano and Ferenc Puskas I know were the best players of that era, how Pele is a genius, and as much as his extraordinary and unrivaled skills, he is the first (and perhaps still the best) true global superstar in the game and the mold by which all others are measured. That’s why it became

The continual urge to use his career as a yardstick, a defensiveness that he himself sometimes insisted on, is ultimately counterproductive to achieving a clear view of what he has achieved. I don’t know if he was a GOAT because he was great. He was a pioneer off the field and reached a level of global prestige previously inaccessible to Brazilians and blacks. It’s something that doesn’t exist and everyone who’s played it has been trying to live up to it. Ever since.

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