Football is Brazil's most popular sport and an important component of the country's culture. In 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, and 2002, the Brazilian national football team won the FIFA World Cup five times, the most of any team. Only Brazil and Germany have qualified for all of the World Cups for which they have joined the qualifications. Brazil is the only team in history to have competed in every World Cup tournament.
Football is a way of life in our country. Brazilian footballers have long been idolised, almost deified, as larger-than-life figures with the ability to make people forget about their daily lives and fantasise about the beautiful game. When the Selecao, as hosts of the 2014 World Cup, were knocked out by Germany in a humiliating 7-1 defeat, the entire country was in mourning. Even in the midst of the national team's darkest hour, the Brazilian people remain devoted to the sport.
Thankfully, they have produced some of the best players in the game's history; magicians and icons who pushed the boundaries of what was possible on the field. The list of Brazilian heroes seems to go on forever, so here are just ten of the best players to ever don the famed green and gold.
Gerson, known as Canhotinha de Ouro (roughly, "Golden Left Foot''), was not the most popular player in the 1970 soccer class. He was undeniably one of the most crucial; he served as the link between defence and attack. He was the driving force behind the great 1970 World Cup-winning team. Gerson played for Flamengo, Botafogo, Sao Paulo, and Fluminense, four of Brazil's top clubs.
Socrates was a seven-year member of the Brazilian national team, scoring 22 goals and appearing in two World Cups. He captained the team in the 1982 FIFA World Cup, when he played in midfield alongside Zico, Falcao, Toninho Cerezo, and Éder in what is widely regarded as one of the greatest Brazilian national sides ever. Socrates, a three-time Brazilian champion with Corinthians, retired in 1989 before making an unusual comeback in 2004 with English non-league club Garforth Town for roughly five minutes. He was a dashing midfielder, a frequent drinker and smoker, and a licenced physician. Socrates was all of these things, and his legacy goes far beyond what he accomplished on the field.
Zico would most likely have ranked higher in our list of Brazil's top soccer players if he had won a World Cup victory. Zico was Brasil's dazzling centre point in 1978, 1982, and 1986 World Cups, none of which the country was able to win despite having some of the country's top players. In 1971, he assisted Flamengo in winning the Copa Libertadores, and he went on to win seven state titles and four Brazilian championships in two consecutive seasons totalling 800 games and 500 goals. His time with the national team was tumultuous since he was a member of the 1982 team that came up short, as well as failures in 1978 and 1986.
At his heyday, Jairzinho was perhaps the best and most electric player among Brazil's plethora of great players. Jairzinho sealed his position in Brazilian football history by scoring in each of Brazil's matches in the 1970 World Cup, helping his team to triumph. Jairzinho also had success at the club level, winning two state titles with Botafogo in the 1960s. Before retiring in 1982, he played 81 times for his country, scoring 33 goals in three World Cups in a row in 1966, 1970, and 1974.
Ronaldo was a superb Brazilian soccer player who became a modern-day superstar. Ronaldo was by far the best striker in the world from roughly 1994 until injuries and personal troubles caught up with him near the conclusion of his Real Madrid career in 2007. Despite winning the Golden Ball and scoring four goals during the 1998 World Cup, the striker's tournament would end in disappointment. Ronaldo gained his sweet retribution in 2002, as he led Brazil to its fifth World Cup title in Korea/Japan. Despite a dismal tournament in 2006, Ronaldo added three more World Cup goals to his record, bringing his total to 15, making him the tournament's all-time leading scorer.
Romário is one of the few players who has mastered the knack of scoring goals. While the veracity of his 1000-goal haul is debatable, there is no denying the striker's skill. He won a La Liga title with Barcelona and three Eredivisie titles with PSV Eindhoven, while also winning two Copa Americas and playing a key role in Brazil's World Cup victory in 1994. In that edition, he was named FIFA World Player of the Year.
Didi played as a forward or a midfielder and is considered one of the greatest football players of all time. He participated in three FIFA World Cups (1954, 1958, and 1962), winning the last two. He was awarded the Golden Ball for his performance at the 1958 competition, which is presented to the tournament's finest player. Didi was known for his range of passing, stamina, and technique, and was regarded as a graceful and precise player. He was also a specialist in free kicks, having invented the folha seca (dry leaf) dead ball free kicks.
3. Carlos Alberto
Carlos Alberto, the legendary captain of Brazil's historic 1970 World Cup team, is probably the best Brazilian defender in soccer history. Carlos Alberto, on the other hand, has shown near-unprecedented talent as a playmaker from fullback. In fact, he is credited with revolutionising the "wing-back" position. Many believe his goal in the 1970 World Cup final against Italy, scored with just minutes to go, to be the finest ever scored. Carlos Alberto's biggest success came at Santos when he won a South American Super Cup, two Brazilian championships, and five state crowns in eight years.
Garrincha was born with his right leg 6 cm shorter than his left, as well as his left leg bent outwards and his right leg bent inwards, making him a crippled youngster, according to one doctor. Despite this, the 'little bird' is regarded as the greatest dribbler in history. Garrincha was a two-time global soccer champion, in 1958 and 1962. At the 1958 World Cup, Garrincha was named to the Team of the Tournament, and four years later, when Brazil succumbed to Hungary in the 1966 World Cup, he was named Player of the Tournament. When Pelé was injured after the second match in 1962, Garrincha played a key role in Brasil's victorious march.
Pelé's selection as the best Brazilian soccer player of all time is arguably not the most unique, but his record speaks for itself. Pelé won three World Cups with Brazil and also ruled soccer in the 1960s with his club team Santos FC. He was the complete striker, a player with almost unrivalled technical ability as well as incredible mental toughness. Pelé burst into the international scene as a 17-year-old who dominated the 1958 World Cup, scoring six goals, five of which came in the semi-final and final as Brazil won their first World Cup.
Also Read | Top 10 German football legends of all time