Lionel Messi, Neymar, Cristiano Ronaldo Honor Pelé After Brazilian Icon's Death

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVDecember 29, 2022

FILE - In this Jan. 9, 2012, file photo, Argentina's Lionel Messi, left, and Brazil's soccer legend Pele stand together after Messi was awarded the FIFA Ballon d'Or award in Zurich, Switzerland. Pele says Messi still needs to improve at international level before he can be considered the greatest soccer player ever and needs to score more goals to come close to matching the Brazilian great. (AP Photo/Michael Probst, File)
AP Photo/Michael Probst, File

Brazilian and Paris Saint-Germain superstar Neymar was among the many prominent footballers to post tributes to the legendary Pelé following the news of his death Thursday. Pelé was 82.

Neymar wrote on Instagram (translation via IG):

"Before Pelé, 10 was just a number. I've read this phrase somewhere, at some point in my life. But this sentence, beautiful, is incomplete. I would say before Pelé football was just a sport. Pelé has changed it all. He turned football into art, into entertainment. Gave voice to the poor, blacks and mostly: Gave visibility to Brazil. Soccer and Brazil have raised their status thanks to the King! He's gone but his magic remains. Pelé is FOREVER!!

Argentine superstar and Neymar's PSG teammate, Lionel Messi—fresh off his World Cup triumph—posted several pictures of Pelé throughout the years, writing on Instagram: "Rest in peace, Pelé."

Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo also wrote a tribute to Pelé on Instagram:

"My deep condolences to all of Brazil, and in particular to the family of Edson Arantes do Nascimento. A mere 'goodbye' to the eternal King Pelé will never be enough to express the pain that the entire football world is currently embracing. An inspiration to so many millions, a reference yesterday, today and forever. The love you always showed me was reciprocated in every moment we shared even from distance. He will never be forgotten and his memory will live forever in each and every one of us football lovers. Rest in peace King Pelé."

They were among a number of footballers, past and present, to pay their tributes to Pelé on Thursday:

Erling Haaland @ErlingHaaland

Everything you see any player doing, Pelé did it first. RIP ⚽️🤴🏿 <a href="https://t.co/SeW0z1hQTm">pic.twitter.com/SeW0z1hQTm</a>

Kylian Mbappé @KMbappe

The king of football has left us but his legacy will never be forgotten. <br>RIP KING 💔👑… <a href="https://t.co/F55PrcM2Ud">pic.twitter.com/F55PrcM2Ud</a>

Johan Cruyff @JohanCruyff

Rest in peace, Rei <a href="https://twitter.com/Pele?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Pele</a>. <a href="https://t.co/h9f2ry3O0W">pic.twitter.com/h9f2ry3O0W</a>

Rio Ferdinand @rioferdy5

The legend who stood tallest among legends… always had time for everyone!<br><br>I had the pleasure of playing for him (charity match) and interviewing him - equally rewarding.<br><br>The player, The man, The icon<a href="https://twitter.com/Pele?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Pele</a> <a href="https://t.co/x763cyrqIF">pic.twitter.com/x763cyrqIF</a>

Daniel Sturridge @DanielSturridge

Rest in peace idol. Pele was one of my biggest inspirations to play football man. I used to study his goals on Betamax (yes my dad had one) and he was the Innovator of many of the skills we see today. His legacy will live on forever. Thank you King Pele. ❤️ <a href="https://t.co/gZIlINyyeK">pic.twitter.com/gZIlINyyeK</a>

Gareth Bale @GarethBale11

A giant of the game and the reason so many of us love football. Rest in peace, legend. 👑 <a href="https://twitter.com/Pele?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Pele</a> <a href="https://t.co/biAlOTnIaT">pic.twitter.com/biAlOTnIaT</a>

Janine Beckie @janinebeckie

A sad day for football. RIP Pele 🕊️🫶🏻 <a href="https://t.co/YIaL2co478">pic.twitter.com/YIaL2co478</a>

Victor Wanyama @VictorWanyama

One of the greatest footballers of all time. The King.<br><br>RIP Pele. 🙏🕊️ <a href="https://t.co/5mp5ZLL1j1">pic.twitter.com/5mp5ZLL1j1</a>

Pelé's achievements speak for themselves:

  • He was the only player in history to win three World Cup titles. 
  • He scored 643 goals for Santos during his club career, the most for any player at an individual club until Messi broke the record with Barcelona in 2020. 
  • He spent three years at the NASL's New York Cosmos, posting 37 goals and 30 assists during that period while winning league MVP in 1976, helping to put the short-lived league (1968-84) and the club on the map.

He became a global icon in the process and was the original GOAT, though players such as Diego Maradona, Messi and Ronaldo have since made their case. But there is no denying that Pelé is a legend of legends, and a player who the game's current stars admired greatly.