When one says Pelé the word greatness comes to mind. There are other words that can also describe one of the greatest soccer players of all time, goalscorer, World Cup winner, record-breaker, dribbler, fancy, ambassador, and singer.

Pelé did it all, and he did it in a time when the exposure was more word of mouth than instantly like it is today. In fact, it was not until he came to play in the United States did Pelé fully get immersed in his brand and the potential of his worldwide fame outside the soccer world.

So just how many goals did Pelé score? How many World Cups did Pelé win? How many teams did Pelé play for? For a new generation of fans here is a quick guide to the career of one of sports’ most iconic figures, Edson Arantes do Nascimento, the world would come to know him simply as… Pelé.

Where was Pelé born?

Pelé was born on the 23rd of October 1940, in Três Corações, Minas Gerais, Brazil, he is the son of a soccer player named Dondinho and has two older siblings. He was named after the American inventor Thomas Edison and he grew up in an impoverished neighborhood.

How did Pelé get his nickname?

Pelé earned his nickname because he would mispronounce the name of his favorite childhood player, Bilé, a Vasco da Gama goalkeeper, Pelé himself has said he has no idea what the name means but the name stuck and has been with him ever since.

Pelé first club Santos

Pelé is a rarity in the sports world as he played most of his career in one club. That club is Santos FC. Pelé would join the team in 1956, and the rest is history, at Santos, Pelé would score 504 goals in 496 official games. An astonishing number, Pelé had incredible dribbling skills, heading ability as he could jump extremely high, and seemed to score goals at will.

At Santos Pelé would win 6 Brazilian league titles, 2 Copa Libertadores, as well as 2 Intercontinental Cups (the equivalent of the Club World Cup today), 1 Intercontinental Super Cup, 10 Paulista titles, and 4 Torneio Rio-São Paulo titles.

What clubs tried to sign Pelé while at Santos

Despite having a long career at Santos, Pelé’s reputation around the world grew, and at the World Cup in 1958 he amazed the world with his skill. Pelé received offers from the following clubs during his Santos stint, Real Madrid, Juventus, and Manchester United tried to sign him, but each time a deal was not worked out.

In 1958 it has been said that Inter Milan came the closest to signing him away from Santos but fans in Brazil got angry and Brazilian President Jânio Quadros declared Pelé an "official national treasure" and thus he could not leave to play elsewhere.

Pelé joins the New York Cosmos

In 1975 Pelé would finally get an opportunity to play soccer outside of his native Brazil at the club level, the destination was the unlikely anti- soccer country of the United States. Pelé was signed as a way to give the old NASL a boost and bring the greatest player in the world to the country where soccer had been seen as a foreign sport that could not be popular in the U.S. 

Pelé played 64 games and scored 37 goals for the Cosmos. It is estimated that he earned $4 million dollars a season, making him the highest-paid athlete in the world at the time. He would win 1 NASL championship with the club, but his impact was what happened off the field. Within an instant of signing his Cosmos contract, the world knew about the NASL, and he went from playing in front of 3,000 people to 50,000 a week at Giants Stadium. He appeared on The Late Night with Johnny Carson, he met the President of the United States, and his presence at Shea Stadium for a Mets game caused a game stoppage so he can go down to the field and say hello to the fans. Pelé showed the United States that soccer was a global game. His impact on the sport of soccer in the United States was pivotal and helped provide the foundations where MLS thrives today.


How many World Cups did Pelé win?

Three, he is the player to have won the most world titles individually, he won the World Cup in the 1958, 1962, 1970 editions. He won his first World Cup at the age of 17, and in total scored 6 times in the 1958 tournament. In the 1970 World Cup, he was a part of what many considered to be the best soccer team in history. Brazil's 1970 World Cup squad included players like Rivelino, Jairzinho, Gérson, Carlos Alberto Torres, Tostão, and Clodoaldo.

How many World Cup goals did Pelé score?

Pelé scored 12 goals in 14 matches across 4 World Cup competitions, he ranks 5th on the all-time leading scorer list. Miroslav Klose, of Germany, is ranked number 1 with 16. He also is one of four players to have scored in 4 World Cup tournaments.

How many goals did Pelé score?

This is tricky, there are contradicting reports about the exact amount of goals Pelé scored, Pelé claims to have scored well over 1200 goals. Which may be true if you count international friendlies, exhibitions, and official matches. In total, if you count official matches, Pelé scored 784 goals in his time with Brazil, Santos, and the Cosmos.

Pelé is the Brazilian national teams, all-time leading scorer

Pelé scored 77 goals for the Brazilian national team in 92 appearances, Neymar, the only active player who may catch up to Pelé, has 57. It will be a tough record to break.


Pelé is tied with Diego Maradona as the FIFA player of the century

At the end of the 20th Century, FIFA decided to award the century's top player, in a strange ceremony that is still talked about today. Pelé won the award based on votes from FIFA officials, journalists, and coaches. While Maradona won based on an Internet poll, which gave him a 53% overall vote. The internet poll came under scrutiny since it was said that fans were clearing cookies and voting for Maradona well over 10 times.

Other awards won by Pelé

Pelé is bigger than life and he has received numerous awards here are some of the awards he has been given. FIFA Order of Merit in 1984, Laureus Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000, Football Player of the Century, elected by France Football's Ballon d'Or Winners in 1999, Inducted into the American National Soccer Hall of Fame in 1992, TIME: One of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th century in 1999, Elected Citizen of the World, by the United Nations in 1977, and Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (honorary knighthood) in 1997, among others.

Pelé other individual honors

All-time South American leading international goalscorer: 77 goals, Santos: All-time leading goalscorer: 643 goals in 656 games (based off of Santos records), World record number of hat-tricks at 92, Youngest player to score a hat-trick in a FIFA World Cup: 17 years and 244 days (Brazil v France 1958), Record Top scorer in a calendar year: in 1959 – 127 goals, among others.