Mythbusting the 5 Biggest Misconceptions in the Pelé vs. Lionel Messi Debate

Allan JiangTransfers CorrespondentAugust 4, 2011

Mythbusting the 5 Biggest Misconceptions in the Pelé vs. Lionel Messi Debate

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    ESPN Soccernet reported Pelé saying, "Messi better than Pelé? To get there he needs to score more than 1283 goals."

    He then took a jab at Lionel Messi, "I hope Neymar doesn't end up like Messi, who plays so well for his club but does nothing for his country [Argentina]."

    Pelé is worried that the general football public will perceive Messi to be a better player than him, like in 2000, when only 18.5 per cent voted for him as FIFA Player of the Century.

    It's disappointing that someone of Pelé's stature and integrity consistently talks down a 24-year-old. 

    Maybe those two lost FIFA World Cups, the anger he felt during the FIFA Player of the Century vote and just Messi being great has facilitated Pelé's bitterness. 

    Read this article so you can mythbust the five biggest misconceptions in the Pelé vs. Lionel Messi debate.     

5. Pelé Scored 1,283 Goals in 1,363 Games

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    If you're going to legitimise Pelé's 1,283 goals, you may as well legitimise Romário's fraudulent claim to 1,000 goals. 

    These so-called tour games allowed Pelé to score 526 extra goals, and who knows how many goals Romario counted in youth games, friendlies and inter-club games?

    Pelé officially scored 757 goals in 812 games at 0.93 goals per game.

    Comparison after First Eight Seasons

    Lionel Messi: 197 goals in 329 games at 0.60 goals per game

    Pelé: 441 goals in 344 games at 1.28 goals per game  

4. Pelé's Goal-Scoring Record Is Inferiour Because He Didn't Play in Europe

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    Why do you think the Brazilians were so firm in their belief that England "rigged" the 1966 FIFA World Cup?

    The Brazilians had the best players in the world hands down, and they were distraught that they didn't win. 

    Remember, this was a Brazilian team who won the 1958, 1962 and 1970 World Cups.

    They won the 1962 World Cup with Pelé watching in the stands.   

    Do you know how many Brazilians played in Europe during those four World Cup campaigns? Zero.

    So to claim Pelé's goal-scoring record is inferior because he played in the best league in the world at that time is preposterous.

3. Lionel Messi Plays Against Rougher and Tougher Defenders

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    This misconception is bred out of football becoming more and more defensive, whereas football was very cavalier-like during Pelé's time.

    Seemingly people have the misguided view that football before the 1970s was teams taking turns to score goals with no defending at all. 

    Fans of Lionel Messi point to Sergio Ramos' unsavory tackle and Tomáš Ujfaluši's late tackle, but that's nothing compared to what Pelé had to endure.

    During the 1966 FIFA World Cup, the Bulgarians and Portuguese took turns to hack Pelé, and what about João Morais inflicting two of the most brutal fouls in one play on Pelé?

    The tackle from behind was considered fair game, and at times assault was a more accurate description than contesting during Pelé's time.

    Battle of Santiago ring any bells? It prompted the invention of yellow and red cards. 

    Yellow and red cards were not introduced until the 1970 FIFA World Cup, and were not mandatory until 1982.

    The open wounds of the 1966 World Cup still haunt Pelé, and he vowed never to play at a World Cup again because he was so emotionally and physically wrecked. 

    Messi will never have to deal with the violent fouls Pelé suffered, and if there is anyone emulating a Morais on Messi, that person will be villified for the rest of his career. 

    Back in Pelé's days, it was called defending.    

2. Pelé Won Three FIFA World Cups

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    Pelé won two FIFA World Cups, not three.

    He sat the large majority of 1962 FIFA World Cup out because of injury.

    To say Pelé won the 1962 World Cup is an insult to the legacy of Garrincha, who single-handedly won Brazil the World Cup.

    Twenty-four years later, Diego Maradona would do the same, and there hasn't been a player since, not even Lionel Messi during the 2010 World Cup.

1. Pelé Won Everything on His Own

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    Well, he didn't in 1962. 

    This misconception is fostered more out of ignorance. 

    It doesn't hurt to polish up on some football history, and just because you've seen the magic of Andrés Iniesta and Xavi coupled by an inability to recognise the large majority—if not all of Pelé's teammates—it doesn't mean he played with a bunch of ragtag footballers from the slums of Rio.  

    Between 1958-1970, Pelé's teammates contributed to 33 per cent of the FIFA World Cup All-Star XI. If you disregard the 1966 World Cup, then it goes up to 45 per cent.

    In the World XI of the 20th Century, three were Pelé's teammates.  

    In World Soccer's 100 Greatest Players of the 20th Century, six were Pelé's teammates. 

    Pelé was the star in an incredibly gifted and talented Brazilian team. 

    Do not undervalue Pelé's teammates, because they were some of the greatest players to have ever graced the game. 

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