Neymar,Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Pele: How Do the Brazilians Stack Up?
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images
Brazilian Striker Neymar is set to become the next big thing in World Football. The 19 year old currently plays for the Brazilian club Santos, but is already involved in some major summer transfer drama over a potential move to English Premier League giants Chelsea. Neymar has seen his stock rise even more lately, when he scored two goals for Brazil in a friendly against Scotland that took place right in England's capital city of London.
Brazil has blessed this planet with two incredible gifts. Beautiful women, and footballers who play beautiful football. Neymar is far from the first Brazilian to dazzle the world with goals and flair, he is just simply the latest. Neymar is now preparing to have his name mentioned a long with some of the other great Brazilians who have played the game, and not just because of his hairstyle.
Before Neymar there was Ronaldinho, who thrilled fans with his creativity and ability to score from distance. Before Ronaldinho there was Ronaldo, who in his heyday was arguably the greatest striker who ever lived. Of course, the first Brazilian to bless the planet with his great ability was Pele, the man many consider to be the best player to ever play the game.
With such a high number of incredibly talented players before him, Neymar is unlikely to become the greatest Brazilian player to have ever played, the talent above him is just too good. But here is how Neymar stacks up against three of the greatest Brazilians to ever play.
Neymar (Santos: 2009 - Present)
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images
The 19 year old Brazilian striker has been with Brazilian club Santos since he was 11 years old. Neymar signed with the club in 2003, and moved his way up through the ranks of their youth system.
Neymar made his senior debut in March of 2009, one week later he scored his first goal. With Neymar though, it would be unfair to say that all he has done since then has been score more goals at an incredible rate.
Not only is Neymar scoring goal after goal for Santos, but he is doing it with incredible style. Neymar's incredible footwork allows him to dazzle both fans and opponents, with facinating tricks.
What makes Neymar so dangerous, is that he has the ability to control the ball like the worlds best midfielders, while also being able to finish like the world's best strikers. At just 19 years of age, he has already drawn comparisons to Brazilian greats Pele and Robinho, a midfielder and a striker.
Neymar scored 14 goals in 48 appearances during his first senior season with Santos. The following season he really took off, scoring 42 goals in 60 appearances. Neymar scored 11 goals in eight Copa Do Brasil matches, including five in one match. Neymar has also started his International career with a bang, scoring three times in his first three appearances for Brazil.
Neymar has already gotten his name thrown around in several different transfer rumors linking him to several different European clubs. In 2010 Santos rejected a £12 million bid from West Ham United for Santos. Since then, he has gotten the attention of all the big clubs including: Chelsea, Manchester United, Inter Milan, Real Madrid, and Juventus.
Rumors have been spread from almost all clubs about securing the services of the young striker. Real Madrid claimed that they had signed a pre-contract with Neymar's agent. Meanwhile, this winter there were several reports that Chelsea had reached a deal that would bring Neymar to Stamford Bridge this summer, but some parties have denied those reports. Neymar himself has even hinted that he would favor a move to Juventus.
In 2010 Santos placed a €30 million price tag on Neymar, and signed him to a new long term deal with Santos. Neymar himself said it was not yet time for him to leave Santos.
Neymar certainly has the skill set to become the next big thing out of Brazil. However he is still young and he still must go out and prove himself over his entire career before we can properly place him with his Brazilian predecesors.
Ronaldo (1993-2011: Club Career)
Grazia Neri/Getty Images
Brazilian striker Ronaldo's career amassed 18 seasons, seven clubs, one national team, 352 club goals, and a whole bunch of personal awards. When all was said and done, Ronaldo may go down as arguably the greatest striker to ever play in world football.
Ronaldo spent one season at Brazilian club Crezeiro, where he scored 12 goals in 14 appearances as a teenager. The following season he moved to PSV Eindhoven in Holland. In his first season, Ronaldo scored 35 goals in 36 appearances in all competitions. A knee injury kept him out for most the of the following season, but he still scored 19 goals in his 21 appearances.
Ronaldo's performances in Holland attracted the interests of the big clubs, and it was Barcelona who came calling for the Brazilian. A disagreement about his contract though, would limit Ronaldo to spending just one season with the Catalyns. He did make an impact in his one year though, scoring 47 goals in 49 apperances, and helping Barcelona win the UEFA Cup Winners Cup, Copa Del Ray, and the Supercopa de Espana. He won FIFA Player of the Year honors during his one season at Barca.
Ronaldo then moved to Inter Milan, where he spent five years with the Italians. However, he was limited to just 24 appearances over his final three years with Inter due to a knee injury. Nevertheless, he still scored 59 goals during his time with Inter, picking up another FIFA Player of the Year award and his first ever Ballon d'Or.
It was only a matter of time before Real Madrid would come calling for the Brazilian superstar. Ronaldo signed with Real Madrid for €39 million. Ronaldo scored 104 goals during his five seasons for Real Madrid. However his production started to fall off towards the end of his stay there due to injuries and weight issues. He fell out of favor with manager Fabio Capello and was sold to AC Milan for just €7.5 million.
At AC Milan Ronaldo was just a shadow of his former self, playing in just 20 matches during his two years with the club. He scored just nine goals, and his European club career had come to an end.
Ronaldo returned home to Brazilian club Corinthians where he regained some of his goal-scoring form. He scored 25 goals during his first two seasons with the club. He retired after just four matches in his third season.
Ronaldo finished his club career with three FIFA World Player of the Year awards and he won the Ballon d'Or twice. While many may consider him to be the greatest striker of all time, he takes a hit because he bounced around from team to team. In addition, Ronaldo never won a UEFA Champions League, and only won two league titles, both coming with Real Madrid.
Ronaldo: (Brazil 1994-2006)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
In addition to one of the greatest club careers ever, Ronaldo has compiled one of, if not the most impressive international careers in the world.
Ronaldo was included in Brazil's World Cup squad four times, being selected when he was just 17 years old for Brazil's World Cup winning squad for the 1994 World Cup. Though he did not play during the 1994 World Cup, Ronaldo surely made up for it during his next three. By the end of the 2006 World Cup, Ronaldo had set a new record for most World Cup goals by a single player with 15. Ronaldo also scored two goals in the 2002 World Cup Final, leading Brazil to a victory.
Ronaldo made his debut with the Brazilian national team in 1994 and became a permant fixture for Brazil until after the 2006 World Cup 12 years later.
During his time with Brazil, Ronaldo scored 62 international goals, including 15 in 20 matches in 1997. His major contributions to Brazil came at the World Cup, where he scored a record 15 goals over three competitions.
Ronaldo scored four times during the 1998 tournament, but was un-impressive in the Brazil's final loss to France. In 2002 Ronaldo came back with a vengence scoring nine goals during the tournament, including two in the final.
Ronaldo was included in the starting XI during the 2006 World Cup despite being jeered by fans for being slow and overweight. He remained in the starting XI and scored three goals, including the record breaking 15th World Cup goal.
Ronaldo's contributions for Brazil have been so great that in June 2011 he will play in a special sending off match for Brazil, something that is not usually done at the international level.
Ronaldinho (1998- Gremio, PSG, Barcelona, AC Milan, Flamengo)
Massimo Cebrelli/Getty Images
Ronaldinho came around at just the right time to become one of the most recognizable football players in America. His free flowing style of play, ability to take free kicks, and tremendous footwork, made him an easy player to promote. ESPN encouraged viewers to tune in to the 2006 World Cup just to see Ronaldinho, while EA Sports put him on the cover of their FIFA video game several years in a row.
Ronaldinho was also aided by playing at the start of the youtube era. Shorty after youtube took off, compilations of Ronaldinho's tricks and goals were sprouting up all over the internet. This helped the Brazilian take off into international superstardom and become one of the most recognizable faces in world football.
Ronaldinho made his debut with Brazilian club Gremio. He scored 24 goals in 54 matches for the club and was linked with a move to Arsenal. However that deal fell through when he could not obtain a work permit, and instead he signed with Paris Saint-Germain. Ronaldinho scored 25 goals in 77 matches during his two seasons in France, propelling him to sign with Spanish giants Barcelona, where his career would really take off.
In five seasons at the Nou Camp, Ronaldinho began dazzling boht Spanish and European opponents with fancy tricks and an incredible ability to score goals from almost anywhere on the field. He scored 22 goals in 48 appearances during his first season with Barcelona, and had an incredible 14 assists. Ronaldinho won his first league title, and his first of back-to-back FIFA World Player of the Year award.
In his five year career with Barcelona, Ronaldinho made 207 appearances with the club. He scored a remarkable 95 goals, and had an even more remarkable 80 assists. He helped Barcelona to two La Liga titles and a UEFA Champions League title.
Ronaldinho moved to AC Milan in 2008, where he struggled to maintain the high level of play he had at Barcelona. While he did have an amazing 29 assists in his three seasons there, he scored only 26 goals, including just one during his final season.
Ronaldinho is now in the twilight of his career, playing it out back home in Brazil with his new club Flamengo. He will always be remembered as one of the biggest international superstars, with special thanks to the many video's dedicated to him on youtube, which will help him live on for quite some time.
Pele (1956-1977: Santos/New York Cosmos)
Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images
One of the biggest mistakes sports fans often make is taking something that just happened and immediately claiming that this play, or this player, was the best one ever. Brazilian superstar Pele never played in Europe. He spent almost his entire career playing in Brazil, before finishing it out in America when most Americans didn't even know what soccer was.
Since Pele played so long ago, we have little video left of him actually playing, and he came around way before things like youtube could ensure that he lived on forever. Soccer took a dip in popularity in the 80's, even in England, which led to the start of the Premier League in the early 90's. There are so many new and young soccer fans just growing attached to the beautfiul game now, that weren't even born when Pele was playing.
For those fans, all they know about Pele is the stories they hear about him. For the older fans, they have their memories, but those memories are fading. People watch the great tricks of Cristiano Ronaldo, or watch Lionel Messi just float through defenders and want to annoint them as the best players ever. The truth is, with the amount of new fans football has picked up in the last six years alone, Messi and Ronaldo are the two best players these fans have ever seen.
In basketball, the NBA is always looking for the next Michael Jordan. People are now saying Kobe Bryant is better then Jordan, but go back and watch when Jordan was playing. You will instantly think otherwise as you remember just how good Jordan was.
If only we could do the same thing for Pele. If we could re-watch the matches Pele played in the arguments would be squashed immediately. It would be clear that Pele was the best that ever lived. No one has replaced him yet, and who knows if someone ever will.
Pele played in 656 competitive matches for Santos, scoring 643 goals. When you include friendlies, he played in 1120 matches, scoring an astonishing 1087 goals. Pele led Santos to about as many trophies as you could possibly lead a club to, winning 32 official trophies. In the twighlight of his career Pele played 107 matches for the New York Cosmos. He scored a total of 64 goals and led the Cosmos to the NASL league title in 1977.
If you think the competition in Brazil was not strong enough, Pele scored 77 times in 92 international matches with Brazil. He scored 12 goals in four World Cup tournaments. He led Brazil to a World Cup title three times, including back-to-back titles in 1958 and 1962.
Pele is the most decorated player in football history. Unfortunately, all we have of Pele are our memories, which fade over time. We are now looking to replace Pele with the new "big thing," but the truth is, the gold standard of greatness starts and ends with Pele. While the Brazilians that came after him have been tremendous players, they are still not yet on the level of Pele.